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South Korea aims to freeze North Korea’s crypto assets: Report

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The government of South Korea is planning to submit a bill to track and freeze crypto stolen by North Korea.

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  • Sanctions against North Korea due to its nuclear programs have led to the country engaging in crypto theft.
  • In 2023, North Korean hackers stole around $200 million in crypto year-to-date, as per a recent report.

The South Korean government is planning to submit a bill that will track and freeze crypto assets stolen by North Korea to further its illicit weapons program, a local news publication JoongAng Daily reported on 4 September.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) had announced an earlier version of the bill in November 2022. President Yoon Suk Yeol however directed that the bill be returned for further revision. The amended bill is the product of a 10-month consultation process among various South Korean government ministries. It aims to strengthen South Korea’s existing sanctions against the North.

An anonymous source told the news publication that the latest version includes measures to “track and neutralize virtual coins and other cryptocurrency assets stolen by the North through hacking.” The original bill proposed last year did not include these measures.

The Yoon administration also intends to establish a national cyber security committee under the direct control of the President to implement measures to bolster the country’s defenses against foreign hacking attempts. The chief of the National Security Office will head the committee, with the NIS director as a member.

TM Labs published a report last month that in 2023, North Korean hackers stole around $200 million in crypto year-to-date. It also mentions that hacks executed by North Korean attackers in 2023 were 10 times larger than attacks by other actors.

Source: TRM Labs

Why does North Korea engage in crypto theft?

Last month, Reuters published an article citing a United Nations report about cyber-attacks by North Korea. The U.N. report said,

After a record-breaking level of cyber thefts in 2022, estimated at $1.7 billion, DPRK (North Korean) hackers reportedly continued to successfully target cyber cryptocurrency and other financial exchanges globally.

AMBCrypto previously reported about the motivation behind crypto hacking by North Korean actors.

Due to its possession of weapons of mass destruction and alleged support to terrorist groups, the country has been at the receiving end of punishing economic sanctions by the West.

These strict sanctions have effectively blocked the doors to the global financial system for the country’s young and unemployed. As a result, many of them seek refuge in the anonymous world of cryptos.

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Saman Waris works as a News Editor at AMBCrypto. She has always been fascinated by how the tides of finance and technology shape communities across demographics. Cryptocurrencies are of particular interest to Saman, with much of her writing centered around understanding how ideas like Momentum and Greater Fool theories apply to altcoins, specifically, memecoins. A graduate in history, Saman worked the sports beat before diving into crypto. Prior to joining AMBCrypto 2 years ago, Saman was a News Editor at Sportskeeda. This was preceded by her stint as Editor-in-Chief at EssentiallySports.
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