South Korea selects eight candidates for national post quantum cryptography standards

By Dain Oh, The Readable
Dec. 7, 2023 11:58PM GMT+9

A South Korean research organization dedicated to developing national standards of post quantum cryptography (PQC) announced the results of its first round of competition on Thursday in which 16 algorithms submitted from November of last year to October of this year were compared. Of the numerous applicants, eight algorithms were selected to compete in the next round.

“After nearly a year of evaluation, the KpqC team is pleased to announce the algorithms that will advance to the KpqC Competition Round 2,” wrote the research organization in an announcement published onto their website. The KpqC is an abbreviation of “Korean Post-Quantum Cryptography.”

The competition was divided into two categories: 1) digital signature and 2) public-key cryptography (PKE), or key encapsulation mechanism (KEM). In Round 1, four algorithms were chosen to represent each category.

The KpqC started accepting entries beginning in November of last year and examined the applications openly. The evaluation process was undertaken in collaboration with PCQ expert Tanja Lange, a professor at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, and in conjunction with her team, according to a press release from the National Intelligence Service.

In Round 2, the remaining candidates’ algorithms will be tested for safety and efficiency. Once the final selection has been made, the winning algorithm will become the nation’s standard for cryptography, in accordance with the PQC master plan.

South Korea has been making efforts to transition its nationwide cryptography systems to PQC in order to safeguard its citizens against threats from quantum computing. Last July, the South Korean government unveiled a master plan for PQC, which laid out a decade-long roadmap to 2035.

“We would like to thank all the Round 1 submission teams for their efforts in this competition since they had an impact on the maturation of the PQC fields in South Korea,” said the KpqC in the announcement. “We appreciate the public reviewers for their interest and comments on the KpqC algorithms. Better outcomes were achieved as a result of public scrutiny and analysis,” added the organization.

The KpqC is a specialized group of researchers that was launched by the NIS in 2021. Han Dae-wan, who heads the Cryptography Research Center at the National Security Research Institute, currently leads the KpqC initiative.

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

Dain Oh is a distinguished journalist based in South Korea, recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field. As the founder and editor-in-chief of The Readable, she has demonstrated her expertise in leading media outlets to success. Prior to establishing The Readable, Dain was a journalist for The Electronic Times, a prestigious IT newspaper in Korea. During her tenure, she extensively covered the cybersecurity industry, delivering groundbreaking reports. Her work included exclusive stories, such as the revelation of incident response information sharing by the National Intelligence Service. These accomplishments led to her receiving the Journalist of the Year Award in 2021 by the Korea Institute of Information Security and Cryptology, a well-deserved accolade bestowed upon her through a unanimous decision. Dain has been invited to speak at several global conferences, including the APEC Women in STEM Principles and Actions, which was funded by the U.S. State Department. Additionally, she is an active member of the Asian American Journalists Association, further exhibiting her commitment to journalism.