South Korea Sanctions North Korean Intelligence Chief for Illicit Cyber Activities

Wed Dec 27 2023
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SEOUL, South Korea: In response to North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile launch, South Korea has imposed sanctions on Ri Chang Ho, the head of Pyongyang’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, citing his involvement in illicit cyber activities and technology theft.

These actions have contributed to generating revenue for the North Korean regime and funding its nuclear and missile activities, according to a statement by Seoul’s foreign ministry.

Ri Chang Ho leads the agency believed to oversee North Korean hacking groups, including Kimsuky, Lazarus, and Andariel, all previously sanctioned by Seoul.

In addition to Ri, seven other North Korean individuals, including former China-based diplomat Yun Chol, have been sanctioned for their involvement in the trade of lithium-6, a UN-sanctioned material used in North Korea’s nuclear programs.

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Seoul has ramped up efforts to address North Korea’s cybercrime, cryptocurrency, and money laundering activities in collaboration with Tokyo and Washington.

The move comes amid concerns that these illicit activities fund North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The blacklisted individuals are prohibited from conducting foreign exchange and financial transactions with South Korean nationals without prior authorization.

Since October last year, Seoul has blacklisted a total of 83 individuals and 53 entities associated with Pyongyang’s weapons programs. North Korea has escalated nuclear and military threats, launching a reconnaissance satellite in November and testing its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) this month.

South Korea, Japan, and the United States estimate that North Korea stole up to $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency last year and engaged in malicious cyber activities to gather information to support its weapons programs. The international community is closely monitoring North Korea’s actions, with Seoul emphasizing the need for dialogue and denuclearization.

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