SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea on Friday announced its first independent sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s cryptocurrency theft and other illicit cyber activities.
South Korea has decided to impose its own sanctions on four North Korean tech experts and seven organizations under the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), the country’s military intelligence agency, involved in cryptocurrency heists and cyberattacks in the past, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
The North is widely suspected of having engaged in cryptocurrency theft to finance its apparently advancing nuclear and missile programs.
According to a U.N. Security Council report released last year, the North is accused of having stolen as much as $400 million worth of cryptocurrency in 2021.
Friday’s announcement marked South Korea’s first independent sanctions on North Korea in the area of illicit cyber activities.
The Yoon Suk Yeol administration earlier imposed sanctions on individuals and institutions related to the North’s weapons programs and U.N. Security Council resolution evasions in October and December, respectively.
Those blacklisted include Park Jin-hyok, a computer programmer with the Chosun Expo Joint Venture who participated in the cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November 2014, and Song Rim of Hapjanggang Trading Corp., a software developer who has programmed and distributed voice phishing smartphone applications.
Among the sanctioned organizations are Lazarus Group, which stole nearly US$620 million from the online game “Axie Infinity” in one of the single largest cybertheft cases in 2022, Bluenoroff and Andariel, all sponsored by the RGB.
The ministry said the sanctions are expected to draw attention to the risks of trading with those on the blacklist and raise awareness within the international community.
South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jinsaid earlier this month Seoul and Washington will work to “close loopholes” in U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea and cut off Pyongyang’s unlawful revenue streams by countering its illicit cyber activities.