One of the problem with the Nork sanctions passed by the U.N. is that they rely on member states for their enforcement and not all member states are, well, super excited about sanctioning the Norks. We’re looking at you, China.
But it seems the Germans may also be looking the other way. Consider the Cityhostel Berlin tucked away on the Glinkastraße, barely spitting distance from the Brandenburg Gate and, more importantly, the North Korean Embassy. According to this article in Deutsche Welle, the Cityhostel is actually part of a large complex of buildings ceded to North Korea by the East Germans (bless their hearts) before the Berlin Wall was torn down. They use it for their Embassy, and they rent space to the Berlin Cityhostel, which thereby provides extra income to Kim Jong Un and his nuclear program.
The problem is UN Resolution 2321 prohibits member states from allowing the Norks to use real property that they own for anything other than diplomatic or consular activities. The German foreign ministry, when asked about this, did a creditable imitation of Baron Munchausen, with this obvious exaggeration:
We are closely monitoring potential violations of the sanctions regime imposed by the UN Security Council and, together with our partners, strictly observing the sanctions against North Korea.
Right. And I bet that the ministry also just saved itself from drowning by pulling on its hair and then, just for fun, took a ride on a cannonball.
Some of my U.S. readers are now probably wondering, besides how you can ride on a cannonball, whether they can stay at Hotel Norkschwein, I mean the Cityhostel, on their next trip to Berlin. Executive Order 13722 blocks all property of the North Korean government and, more importantly, prohibits any U.S. person from “making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of” the North Korean government. Certainly there is an argument that paying a hotel bill in a hotel leased from the Norks might be considered to fall within this prohibition.
The question, then, is whether the travel exemption would permit U.S. citizens to spend the night in Kim Jong Un’s little Berlin hideaway. That exemption prohibits regulation under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), of transactions “ordinarily incident to travel to or from any country.” This would normally cover, and exempt from prohibition, paying for hotels while in Berlin. But Executive Order 13722 was also enacted pursuant to the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, which means that the travel exemption in IEEPA would not apply. Nor has OFAC promulgated regulations under Executive Order 13722 which would exempt travel related transactions.
So, even if you are completely comfortable with throwing your hard-earned money into Kim Jong Un’s nuclear piggy bank, you do so at your own risk if you are a U.S. citizen.