South Korea sanctions North Korea spy chief, seven others for illicit cyber activities, illegal arms trade

South Korea sanctions North Korea spy chief, seven others for illicit cyber activities, illegal arms trade

South Korea sanctions North Korea spy chief, seven others for illicit cyber activities, illegal arms trade

Following Pyongyang’s recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile, South Korea sanctioned the director of North Korea’s intelligence service for unlawful cyber actions, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Pyongyang is already sanctioned internationally for its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, which have advanced rapidly under North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The declaration comes only weeks after Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington established new three-way initiatives aimed at combating North Korea’s cybercrime, cryptocurrency, and money laundering operations, which are thought to fuel the country’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Ri Chang Ho, the chief of Pyongyang’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, has been sanctioned for “earning foreign currency through illegal cyber activities and technology theft,” according to a statement from Seoul’s foreign ministry.

His actions have aided in “generating revenue for the North Korean regime and procuring funds for its nuclear and missile activities,” according to the report.

Ri is the chairman of the agency that is thought to be the parent organisation of the North Korean hacker groups Kimsuky, Lazarus, and Andariel, all of which have previously been sanctioned by Seoul.

Along with Ri, Seoul sanctioned seven other North Koreans, including former China-based diplomat Yun Chol, for “trade of lithium-6, a nuclear-related mineral and UN-sanctioned material for North Korea.”

The blacklisted individuals are barred from conducting foreign exchange and financial transactions with South Korean nationals without prior authorization from Seoul, measures that analysts say are primarily symbolic given the extremely limited trade between the two countries.

Seoul has now blacklisted 83 individuals and 53 entities related to Pyongyang’s weapons programmes since October last year, its foreign ministry said.

North Korea has recently ramped up its nuclear and military threats, successfully launching a reconnaissance satellite in November and testing its most advanced ICBM this month.

Kim said last week that Pyongyang would not hesitate to launch a nuclear attack if “provoked” with nukes.

“Our government has made it clear that North Korea’s provocations will inevitably come with a price,” Seoul’s foreign ministry said in its statement Wednesday.

“Our government will continue to closely cooperate with the international community… to make North Korea realise this fact, cease provocations, and engage in dialogue for denuclearisation.”

According to Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, Pyongyang stole as much as $1.7 billion in cryptocurrency last year alone and supported its weapons programmes in part by gathering information through “malicious cyber activities”.

In June, Seoul sanctioned a Russian national over allegedly founding a North Korean front company in Mongolia to assist Pyongyang in evading sanctions to secure financing for its banned weapons programmes.