Space expert warns of potential electronic warfare in future North-South Korea conflicts

By Minkyung Shin, The Readable
Mar. 14, 2024 8:30PM GMT+9

A South Korean space expert stated on Wednesday that the country will prioritize defending against non-physical attacks, emphasizing the necessity for South Korea to enhance its technological investments to safeguard against North Korea’s satellite jamming tactics.

Choi Seong-hwan, a Specialty Fellow in the Aerospace Business Division at Hanwha Systems and a retiree from the Republic of Korea Air Force, spoke about space electronic warfare and space cybersecurity at the Cyber National Security Forum in Seoul on March 14. There he highlighted that for over 30 years, North Korea has focused on non-physical attacks, a strategy driven by its limited financial resources.

Choi Seong-hwan, a Specialty Fellow in the Aerospace Business Division at Hanwha Systems and a retiree from the Republic of Korea Air Force, is delivering a speech at the 8th Cyber National Strategy Forum on Wednesday. Photo by Minkyung Shin, The Readable

Choi noted that North Korea is actively engaging in testing and deploying three distinct types of satellite jamming attacks: Global Positioning System (GPS) jamming, radio jamming, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) jamming. He emphasized that SAR jamming, in particular, represents the most potent and unique method of attack, according to his expert analysis.

Choi further observed that during intense conflicts, participating parties often refrain from direct physical attacks in the initial phase of hostilities. He cited the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an example, noting that Russia initiated GPS jamming attacks on satellites following its invasion of Ukraine on January 9, 2021. This strategy aimed to sow confusion before launching further military operations. Additionally, Choi mentioned that Russia is believed to have carried out a SAR jamming attack on European reconnaissance satellites near the Ukraine border on July 25, 2021, which temporarily disrupted the satellites' functionalities.

“An analysis of the Russia-Ukraine conflict’s progression could offer insights into how tensions between South and North Korea might escalate, particularly with cyberattacks preceding physical assaults,” the expert stated. “Should conflicts between North and South Korea arise in the future, we can expect active cyberattacks targeting satellites,” Choi warned.

Choi further emphasized the critical need for ongoing technological investment, stating, “To adequately prepare for such attacks, it’s essential not only to invest in technology but also to understand the patterns of North Korean attacks.”

The cover image of this article was designed by Daeun Lee. This article was edited by Dain Oh and copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Minkyung Shin serves as a reporting intern for The Readable, where she has channeled her passion for cybersecurity news. Her journey began at Dankook University in Korea, where she pursued studies in Journalism and Software Convergence Contents. During her university studies, Shin led a team project that developed an Augmented Reality (AR) Face Tracking Service application and authored a paper titled ‘AR Face Tracking Based on Service Content’. In 2023, she expanded her experiences by interning at the Toronto-based non-profit organization, TCM, planning support programs for underprivileged children in the city. Through her diverse experiences, Shin has cultivated a broad perspective on cybersecurity. She is committed to delivering accurate and insightful cybersecurity news to readers worldwide.