North Korea is making massive preparations for cyber warfare against the South, the National Intelligence Service said in a parliamentary audit Monday.
The NIS quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as saying that alongside nuclear weapons and missiles, cyber warfare capabilities are "a magic weapon" that empowers the North Korean army to launch "ruthless strikes" on the South.
The remarks were relayed by Saenuri Party lawmaker Cho Won-jin of the Intelligence Committee.
According to the NIS, the North established the cyber strike command under the General Reconnaissance Bureau, and it is operating seven hacking organizations consisting of some 1,700 hackers under the National Defense Commission and the Workers Party.
It boosted software development staff to earn hard currency, and now 4,200 developers are working for various agencies.
The NIS said, "The North has finished manning cyber strike organizations that it can mobilize in a war."
The State Security Department and an agency known as "Bureau 225" under the Workers Party are also producing anti-South Korean propaganda to operatives through spy networks in China and Japan.
It is also active on some 400 social media sites, including Uriminzokkiri, for psychological warfare abroad, using South Korean resident registration numbers to sign up.
The NIS revealed a document that suggests the North has worked out ways to manipulate online opinion here by posting articles on blogs or sending e-mails to South Korean journalists. It has developed a Trojan program to take over computer networks and power supply systems, including power stations and substations, throughout the South, the NIS claims.
The geographic coordinates of South Korean chemical materials facilities, oil storage terminals, water treatment stations and power plants, and collected information on power substations, subway networks and elevated roadways in major cities, tunnels, bridges, and railroad stations are also recorded by the North Korean regime.
Other plans include disturbing the GPS systems for aircraft and ships in and near the Seoul metropolitan area and Chungcheong provinces, according to the NIS.