South Korea conducts multinational cybersecurity training including US, China, and Russia

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Nov. 17, 2022 10:14PM KST Updated Nov. 30, 2022 6:07PM KST

The South Korean military said on Thursday that they conducted a virtual multinational cybersecurity mock training session with the member states of Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus, a gathering dedicated to enhancing defensive capabilities in cyberspace.

According to the South Korean military, 16 out of 18 member states participated in the virtual training session, a mock exercise where the member states work as a group to solve problems related to cyber threats such as ransomware. New Zealand and Vietnam were the two countries who did not attend the training session.

The ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus experts working group on cybersecurity is joined by ten member states of the ASEAN countries and eight other countries including Australia, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, United States, China, and Russia. South Korea is the co-chair for the working group with Malaysia for a three-year term and is playing a leading role in conducting the cybersecurity training.

Although the training was already approved by the member states in 2021, it was unclear until the very last minute which countries would join in the actual practice. In fact, the South Korean military told The Readable on Wednesday that they could not give a definite answer to the question as to which countries are participating in the training session.

Apart from the absence of two member states, Russia and Japan took part as observants in the mock training. “[We have been informed that] Japan has expressed that they will be unable to join the actual practice because it overlaps with their bilateral training,” an official from the Ministry of National Defense explained to The Readable. The South Korean miliary added that Russia expressed their participation at the very last minute.

This is the first time Russia has taken part in a cybersecurity training held by the current working group of 18 member states. In 2019, the working group, which was newly formed with South Korea as a member state and co-chaired by the Philippines and New Zealand, conducted a cybersecurity training called the Table Top Exercise, an exercise which was carried out through documentation. According to the South Korean military, 16 member states participated in the cybersecurity training, and Russia was one of the countries who did not participate.

The South Korean military are expecting that the cybersecurity training will close the gap between the member states regarding the defensive capabilities against cyber threats. The Ministry of National Defense is planning to hold an in-person cybersecurity training in South Korea in the second half of next year.

The New Zealand’s defense ministry told The Readable on November 28 that they did not attend the training because “the appropriate experts were not available.”

“We participated at the recent [working group] session in July and plan to have attendees present at activities planned for 2023,” wrote Michael Swain, deputy secretary for Defense Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Defense, in an email. “As co-chair with the Philippines when this group was formed, New Zealand values and continues to support the work of this expert working group.”

The Vietnamese embassy in Seoul did not respond to a request for comment.

This article was updated to include a comment by the New Zealand’s Ministry of Defense.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang.

Kuksung Nam is a cybersecurity journalist for The Readable. She covers cybersecurity issues in South Korea, including the public and private sectors. Prior to joining The Readable, she worked as a political reporter for one of the top-five local newspapers in South Korea, The Kyeongin Ilbo, where she reported several exclusive stories regarding the misconduct of local government officials. She is currently focused on issues related to anti-fraud, as well as threats and crimes in cyberspace. She is a Korean native who is fluent in English and French, and she is interested in delivering the news to a global audience.