South Korea joins NATO’s Cyber Coalition for the first time

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Nov. 27, 2023 8:00PM GMT+9 Updated Nov. 27, 2023 8:25PM GMT+9

South Korea, in process of expanding its ties with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the area of cyber defense, announced that it will participate for the first time in one of the world’s largest cyber defense exercises, hosted by NATO.

On November 27, South Korea’s Cyber Operations Command stated in a press release that eleven military officials will take part in the global cyber exercise, called the ‘Cyber Coalition,’ held in Tallinn Estonia until December 1. Three cyber defenders will participate in on-site training exercises consisting of virtual scenarios that simulate cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. They are expected to be joined by eight military officials who will participate remotely. Cyber defenders from thirty-four countries—representing both NATO members and the organization’s allies—will train together over a five-day period to hone their skills in countering cyberattack and increase their resilience in recovery.

NATO, who see securing cyberspace as being of equal importance to securing physical territory, has hosted the Cyber Coalition yearly since 2008 with the aim of enhancing the ability of member and allied nations to respond to and defend against ever-evolving cyber security threats. According to NATO’s Allied Command Transformation, more than 1,000 officials from thirty-three countries, including those from the European Union, participated in the exercise last year. The cyber defenders particularly went through various experiments to figure out whether the use of artificial intelligence-supported tools could benefit the work of cyber defenders in countering threats.

Last year, the South Korean military attended the annual training event as observers. However, this year the country will be working alongside other participants in grappling with simulated “real-life” cyber challenges. “In the midst of evolving cyber threats, the Cyber Coalition is an opportunity for us to forge a partnership with NATO in the critical area of cyber operations,” said Lee Dong-kil, South Korea’s Cyber Operations Commander. “We will try our best to enhance our capabilities in cyber warfare through this exercise.”

The Readable reached out to the Cyber Operations Command to ask whether the South Korean military has plans to participate in NATO’s Cyber Coalition in coming years. The South Korean military said that they would look into the matter after concluding the cyber defense exercise.

South Korea is investing effort into bolstering the nation’s cyber defense capabilities by building partnerships with international counterparts. Last July, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius where the two adopted the Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). The ITPP states that the two parties will work together in eleven different areas, and cyber defense was included as a key component of this cooperation.

Earlier this year, South Korea participated in Locked Shields, which is the world’s largest live-fire cyber defense exercise hosted by NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence (CCDCOE). This marked South Korea’s third year as participants.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Kuksung Nam is a journalist for The Readable. She has extensively traversed the globe to cover the latest stories on the cyber threat landscape and has been producing in-depth stories on security and privacy by engaging with industry giants, foreign government officials and experts. Before joining The Readable, Kuksung reported on politics for one of South Korea’s top-five local newspapers, The Kyeongin Ilbo. Her journalistic skills and reportage earned her the coveted Journalists Association of Korea award in 2021 for her essay detailing exclusive stories about the misconduct of a former government official. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in French from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, a testament to her linguistic capabilities.