As the dust settles after a massive cyber attack on major broadcasters and banks in South Korea on Wednesday, intelligence officials here say North Korea's persistent online subversion and propaganda pose a more fundamental threat.
North Korean spy agencies have been launching concerted activities to spread propaganda and foment dissent and subversion in South Korea by using 84 directly operated websites as well as hundreds of accounts on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Their aim is to influence South Korean public sentiment in favor of the North and to split the population along ideological lines.
According to intelligence officials here, North Korean espionage agencies use the Internet to pass instructions to their agents and pro-North Korean groups overseas on how to use particular issues in South Korea to foment dissent.
Then the agents and groups post propaganda and comments on websites of their own and of leftwing South Korean groups. South Korean leftwingers in turn reword the sometimes awkward-sounding propaganda for people on this side of the border.
"If one North Korean spy posts one message, nine core followers repost that message and 90 ordinary South Koreans end up reading it," said one intelligence source here.
North Korean agents often steal the identities of South Koreans to open accounts with various web portals here. They also pose as South Korean civic activists and leave pro-North Korean comments on major websites fomenting conflict.
"Cyber propaganda and subversion may not seem like a big deal due to their insidiousness, but they are persistent like the drizzling rain and pose a considerable threat because they gradually divide public sentiment," an intelligence official said.