South Korea imposes independent sanctions on North Korea-tied individuals, firms for crypto theft

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Key Takeaways

  • The sanctioned individuals are Park Jin-hyok, Jo Myong-rae, Song Rim, and Oh Chung-Seong
  • Lazarus Group, responsible for the $100 million Harmony Bridge hack, is also being sanctioned

South Korean regulators have announced sanctions pertaining to crypto thefts and cyberattacks against certain North Korean groups and entities. As per South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs official statement, the government has issued sanctions against four North Korean individuals and seven agencies for illegal cyber activities.

“It is expected that it will serve as an opportunity to alert the world to the risk of virtual asset trading with North Korea by including the virtual asset wallet address as the identification information of the subject of sanctions,” the Ministry’s statement reads.

The sanctioned individuals are Park Jin-hyok, Jo Myong-rae, Song Rim, and Oh Chung-Seong. The U.S. charged park Jin-Hyok in 2021 for his alleged involvement in stealing over $1.3 billion in money and cryptocurrency. Park is a member of North Korea’s government-funded hacking team known as “Lazarus Group (or APT 38),” which is also being sanctioned by South Korea.

Lazarus Group was responsible for the $100 million Harmony Bridge hack and the $620 million Ronin Bridge heist. The other institutions targeted for sanctions include Chosun Expo Joint Venture Company, Oh Loyalty, Bluenoroff, Andariel,110 Research Institute, Comman Automation College, and Technical Reconnaissance Bureau. South Korea accuses these firms of engaging in activities “such as hacking and theft of virtual assets” or training cyber experts.

The latest action by South Korea comes amid the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealing that the $100 million theft from Harmony’s Horizon bridge from June last year was carried out by two cyber groups linked to North Korea.

The issuance of independent sanctions comes hours after the National Intelligence Service of South Korea, in collaboration with the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence organizations, announced a joint cybersecurity venture against ransomware attacks.

Crypto theft in North Korea has spiked in recent years. As per the latest U.N. report, North Korea stole more crypto assets in 2022 than in any other year and targeted the networks of foreign aerospace/defense companies. South Korea estimates that North Korean-linked hackers stole virtual assets worth around $630 million last year, while a cybersecurity company assessed that North Korean cybercrime yielded cyber currencies worth over $1 billion.

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Saniya Raahath
Saniya Raahath

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