On 8 March, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) issued a statement saying that it would no longer allow North Korean banks to access its platform.

The statement by the Brussels based inter-bank messaging system followed a decision by Belgium to withdraw authorisations for transactions with North Korean Banks, which the Belgian foreign ministry stated were prompted by Pyongyang’s increasingly destabilising behaviour and recent missile launches.

The policy change came shortly after the publication of a United Nations (UN) report in February, which said that any company trading with a designated North Korean bank would be in violation of UN sanctions. According to the panel of experts who prepared the report, UN sanctions would be breached even if a company had received authorisation from a European government. The report stated that, in respect of UN Sanctions, only the UN Security Council could provide an exemption to trade with sanctioned banks. This message is primarily directed at governments granting authorisations, since companies and individuals are bound by the implementing law in each member state. A subsequent UN Security Council statement of 7 March accordingly called on UN member states to redouble their efforts to implement sanctions, and also threatened further measures.

SWIFT has suspended access to its secure financial messaging system for the following banks referred to in the UN report:

  • Bank of East Land,
  • Korea Daesong Bank, and
  • Korea Kwangson Banking Corp.