South Korea’s ruling party calls for international cooperation against North Korean cyber threat

By Kuksung Nam, The Readable
Oct. 30, 2023 9:05PM GMT+9

The spokesperson of South Korea’s ruling party called for the government to form deeper ties with the international community to help address the threat of cyberattacks out of North Korea.

Jung Kwang-jae, a representative of the People Power Party, expressed his concerns over recent escalation in illegal cyber activities originating from or facilitated by North Korea. In a public statement released on October 28, Jung pointed out that the increasing frequency and complexity of the attacks coming out of the North is likely motivated by their need for more information and financial resources.

On October 27, Jung, citing a report issued by a panel of experts on sanctions against Pyongyang being imposed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), noted that North Korean hackers are persisting in their efforts, all the while using more and more sophisticated techniques. The report further states that the value of digital assets stolen by North Korea’s state-sponsored attacks spiked three-fold from 2021 to 2022, totaling approximately $1.7 billion.

Jung added that the stolen wealth North Korea is accumulating is likely to be funneled into the nation’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. “Due to an extreme food shortage, North Korea has been cutting back on properly supplying their soldiers,” said Jung. “In light of this, it isn’t difficult to deduce that Pyongyang’s aim in pursuing cybercrime is to accelerate their military capabilities by fast-tracking their nuclear arms program.” Jung further cited information coming out of the United States claiming that approximately 50% of the cost of North Korea’s ballistic missile program is coming from cybercrime, primarily cryptocurrency theft.

“To deter North Korea’s persistence in pursuing cybercrime, the South Korean government must fortify its resources in order to respond to their activities in real-time, as they occur,” asserted the spokesperson. “We need to intensify our relationship with the international community to foster a more efficient and cooperative cyber defense system.”

Overall, Jung emphasized the severity of North Korean cyberattacks against South Korea and its citizens. The South Korean government arrested four individuals last week on charges of conspiring with North Korean hackers to extract 3.4 billion won ($2 million) from victims through ransomware attacks. “It’s shocking to learn that none other than a South Korean company assisted North Korea in amassing stolen funds, taking orders straight from a hostile government,” said Jang. “It is definitive proof that North Korean cybercriminals have infiltrated our society.”

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.