US and South Korea Forge Strong Alliance to Tackle North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Theft

In a significant development in the ongoing efforts to curb North Korea’s illicit revenue streams, the United States and South Korea held their fourth working group meeting on North Korea’s cyber threat. The meeting, which took place in South Korea on July 26, highlighted the pressing need for both nations to combat the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nefarious activities related to cryptocurrency theft and other cybercrimes.

Led by U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea, Jung Pak, and her South Korean counterpart, Lee Jun-il, the working group meeting showcased the deepening collaboration between the two countries. The primary objective of the meeting was to disrupt North Korea’s ability to generate funds for its illegal weapons development programs, a matter of utmost concern for regional and global security.

In an official press release, the state department emphasized the significance of the meeting, stating, “The Republic of Korea (ROK) hosted the 4th U.S.-ROK Working Group on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Cyber Threat on July 26. The meeting underscores the close collaboration between the U.S. and ROK governments to disrupt the DPRK’s ability to generate revenue for its unlawful WMD and ballistic missile programs.”

Lee Joon-il (L), director-general for North Korean nuclear affairs at South Korea’s foreign ministry, and U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Jung Pak pose for a photo during their meeting in Seoul on July 26, 2023. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

One of the primary focal points of the discussions was the alarming revelation that North Korea has been earning hundreds of millions of dollars annually through illegal means, including cryptocurrency theft. This revelation aligns with previous findings by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, which revealed that Pyongyang managed to steal at least $700 million worth of virtual assets in 2022 alone.

The United States and South Korea have jointly recognized the gravity of the situation and are taking proactive measures to address the cyber threats posed by North Korea. Among the actions being pursued are efforts to expose and prevent North Korea’s malicious cyber activities, particularly its cryptocurrency theft and fraudulent practices involving DPRK information technology workers posing as non-DPRK nationals.

In their endeavor to combat North Korea’s cyber threat, the U.S.-ROK working group discussed strategies to strengthen cooperation with foreign governments and industry leaders. Heightened awareness of the threat posed by DPRK cyber actors is crucial to curbing their illicit activities effectively. Additionally, enhancing information sharing between governments and the private sector on cybersecurity matters is seen as pivotal in the fight against cybercrime.

Both nations are acutely aware that curtailing North Korea’s revenue-generating activities is essential to reducing the funds available for its unlawful weapons and ballistic missile programs. As a result, the partnership between the United States and South Korea remains vital in achieving regional stability and dismantling the illegal pathways used by North Korea to finance its dangerous ambitions.

In conclusion, the fourth working group meeting between the United States and South Korea represents a crucial step forward in their united front against North Korea’s cyber threats. By addressing the issue of illicit cryptocurrency activities head-on and exploring avenues for stronger collaboration, the two nations are demonstrating their commitment to safeguarding regional security and peace. The battle to cut off North Korea’s illegal revenue streams is far from over, but with continued joint efforts, the international community stands a better chance of effectively responding to this pressing global challenge.

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