The sanctions are described as a response to the recent hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The hackers also threatened violence if Sony released The Interview, a comedy revolving around the attempted assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Sony eventually released the movie in art-house theaters and and video on-demand services.)
“Today’s actions are driven by our commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew in the release. “Even as the FBI continues its investigation into the cyber-attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment, these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States.”
The new sanctions target three North Korean agencies (including its primary intelligence agency) and 10 government officials, who will be blocked from engaging with the U.S. financial system.
The FBI has said that the North Korean government was responsible for the attack, though the country’s government has denied it. Security intelligence firm Norse Corp recently claimed that a former Sony employee was likely involved.