The Korea Times is reporting that President Bush's Jun. 29 executive order -- naming eight companies as WMD proliferators -- has struck at a key business partner of the Reverend Moon, owner of the Washington Times. One of the companies named, Ryonbong, is the other half of Moon's North Korean joint car venture. Together they operate a plant 25 miles down the road from the North Korean capital. (I wrote about their relationship in The American Prospect).
Reports the Korea Times:
[E]xperts in Seoul expressed surprise over the inclusion of Korea Ryonbong General Corporation, a Pyongyang-based company that in 2002 launched an automobile assembly line together with South Korea?s Pyonghwa Motors. The South Korean firm, owned by Rev. Moon Sun-myung?s Unification Church, invested about 71 billion won [$67.5 millon] in the plant located in the North Korean city of Nampo, according to news reports.
``The order is basically the same as imposing economic sanctions," a government official said on condition of anonymity. ``This kind of measure may make local firms, many of which have assets in the U.S., think twice before doing business with North Korea."
Under the executive order, the U.S. Treasury Department is able to freeze assets not only of the listed companies but also those of any person or organization that has business dealings with them
Note: Moon owns Pyonghwa (which means "Peace"), not Ryongbong, the suspected WMD proliferator itself. But their relationship now appears to put Moon's assets under the threat of a U.S. freeze.
Coincidentally, Bush just nominated to a State Department post the woman who helped open the door to a relationship between North Korea and Sun Myung Moon. That's longtime follower Josette Shiner, a former Washington Times editor whose softball interviews with Kim Il Sung in 1992 and 1994 helped cement the North Korean dictator's trust.
As I chronicled in the Prospect, the Moon-Kim relationship may have helped bring North Korea to the negotiating table, but was also suspected by the U.S. government of involvement in a 1994 submarine arms trade (according to Defense Department and State Department cables.)
The word from the White House this week:
President Bush signed an executive order to combat trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation-related materials by cutting off financing and other support for proliferation networks," a White House fact sheet said.
This article has been corrected for accuracy and clarity, and is undergoing revisions as new information comes in.