February 07, 2023 10:26
North Korean hackers stole about W160 billion worth of cryptocurrencies from the accounts of South Korean companies and individuals last year, intelligence authorities here said Monday (US$1=W1,253).
About 1/10th of some W1.65 trillion worth of cryptocurrencies the North stole throughout the world last year is believed to have come from South Korea. The stolen money is believed to have been laundered to fund the regime's nuclear and missile development.
In a recent report, U.S. blockchain firm Chainalysis said North Korea-linked hackers stole US$1.65 billion in cryptocurrencies last year, accounting for 43.4 percent of the total $3.8 billion worth that was stolen around the world last year and up nearly four times the amount from the previous year.
This suggests that crypto theft now takes up a considerable part of the North Korean economy, given that its total exports amounted to just $142 million in 2020.
In 2016, North Korea stole about $1.5 million in cryptocurrencies, but the amount jumped significantly the following year after tougher UN sanctions were implemented.
"Hackers under the [North's] Reconnaissance General Bureau poured all their resources into crypto hacking, which enabled them to grow so rapidly that they are now classified as an 'advanced persistent threat' by intelligence agencies throughout the world," a diplomatic source said.
Anne Neuberger, a U.S. deputy national security adviser, said in July last year that North Korea "uses cyber to gain, we estimate, up to a third of their funds for their missile program."
Seoul and Washington are poised to announce additional sanctions over the North's crypto theft if Pyongyang conducts a fresh nuclear test.
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