International Law Studies


Since 2006, the U.N. has adopted ten sanction resolutions against North Korea (The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK) to date. While these sanctions appear comprehensive, the DPRK is still advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and continuing relevant procurement, according to the U.N. 1874 Panel of Experts, which monitors the implementation of these sanctions. There are constant discussions on how to improve the U.N. Member States’ implementation of the resolutions. However, the shortcomings of the language of the resolutions often is overlooked and should be examined, as these shortcomings frustrate effective implementation by U.N. Member States. After providing an overview of the development of the U.N. sanctions against North Korea, this article analyzes examples of operative paragraphs within relevant resolutions that lack determinative language and how these shortcomings affect implementation. It then discusses how smart language can improve implementation. Due to the political sensitivity of this issue and disagreements among members of the Security Council, the resolution’s language sometimes lacks clarity or leaves room for ambiguity. Thus, States’ obligations are not always clearly specified, which in turn creates problems for the States’ competent authorities that need specific legal grounds to establish domestic law to implement U.N. resolution obligations. Further, incomplete definitions also impede the U.N.’s monitoring of Member States’ implementation. As a result, these shortcomings of the language in the U.N. resolutions contribute to the incomplete implementation of the resolutions and create loopholes used by North Korea to evade sanctions. To improve implementation, the Security Council must provide clearer expectations and use smarter language.