Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korea. Show all posts

2 April 2020

A Timeline of South Korea’s Response to COVID-19


South Korea saw its first confirmed COVID-19 case on January 20. The rate of infection gradually moved to 30 by February 17. Then on February 18, media reports surfaced that a 61-year-old Korean woman tested positive for the virus in Daegu, South Korea’s third-largest city. Dubbed “Patient 31,” this particular case not only represented a critical point that led to the rapid transmission of the virus through the rest of Korean society. It also came to serve as a warning to the rest of the world by underscoring the grave consequences of failing to practice social distancing and self-isolation.

South Korea saw a steep spike of case numbers in the following weeks and reached its peak daily case count on February 29 – forty days after its first confirmed case on January 20 – with 909 new cases and up nearly 500 from the previous day. It became the second most infected country after China by early March. South Korea undertook a massive public and private sector effort to fashion a national response to the pandemic. Korea’s drive-through testing gained media attention around the world and was hailed as an ingenious measure to protect healthcare workers from exposure while providing expeditious results to prospective patients.

29 March 2020

An Elite Spy Group Used 5 Zero-Days to Hack North Koreans

by Andy Greenberg


MOST NORTH KOREANS don’t spend much of their lives in front of a computer. But some of the lucky few who do, it seems, have been hit with a remarkable arsenal of hacking techniques over the last year—a sophisticated spying spree that some researchers suspect South Korea may have pulled off.

Cybersecurity researchers at Google’s Threat Analysis Group today revealed that an unnamed group of hackers used no fewer than five zero-day vulnerabilities, secret hackable flaws in software, to target North Koreans and North Korea-focused professionals in 2019. The hacking operations exploited flaws in Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Windows with phishing emails that carried malicious attachments or links to malicious sites, as well as so-called watering hole attacks that planted malware on victims’ machines when they visited certain websites that had been hacked to infect visitors via their browsers.

Google declined to comment on who might be responsible for the attacks, but Russian security firm Kaspersky tells WIRED it has linked Google’s findings with DarkHotel, a group that has targeted North Koreans in the past and is suspected of working on behalf of the South Korean government.

“It’s really impressive. It shows a level of operational polish.”

23 March 2020

The Blue House Blueprint: How South Korea Contained Its First Coronavirus Outbreak

by Justin Fendos
Source Link

Local authorities will be loath to admit it, but South Korea has contained its first large-scale coronavirus outbreak. This outbreak began in the city of Daegu, centering on the infection of 5,011 members of the Shincheonji religious group. Along with another 347 cases infected through secondary contact, the Daegu outbreak accounts for a staggering two-thirds of all Korean COVID-19 cases. 

I call this outbreak South Korea’s “first” because there will likely be additional outbreaks. One can always hope future events will be limited to small, isolated clusters (like the Sindorim call center cluster in Seoul) but odds remain high that another major outbreak will occur, comparable in size to Daegu. Many challenges will lie ahead regardless, for South Korea and other countries, as the world begins its fight against the pandemic.

Numbers Indicating Success

22 March 2020

The Blue House Blueprint: How South Korea Contained Its First Coronavirus Outbreak

by Justin Fendos
Source Link

Successful containment essentially involves three steps: testing people quickly, quarantining the infected, and disinfecting contaminated environments. In this process, there are three vital ingredients: appropriate information, an effective testing program, and consistency.

Local authorities will be loath to admit it, but South Korea has contained its first large-scale coronavirus outbreak. This outbreak began in the city of Daegu, centering on the infection of 5,011 members of the Shincheonji religious group. Along with another 347 cases infected through secondary contact, the Daegu outbreak accounts for a staggering two-thirds of all Korean COVID-19 cases. 

I call this outbreak South Korea’s “first” because there will likely be additional outbreaks. One can always hope future events will be limited to small, isolated clusters (like the Sindorim call center cluster in Seoul) but odds remain high that another major outbreak will occur, comparable in size to Daegu. Many challenges will lie ahead regardless, for South Korea and other countries, as the world begins its fight against the pandemic.

Numbers Indicating Success

21 March 2020

The day the world stopped


OF THE SUPPOSED five stages of grief, humanity’s response to the covid-19 pandemic has seemed stuck in the first three: denial (it will not happen to us), anger (it’s another country’s fault, or our government’s) and bargaining (if we make modest changes to our ways of life, it will leave us alone). Monday March 16th may have been the day when the last vestiges of these coping strategies evaporated. Much of the world moved on to the next stage, depression—the heart-sinking realisation that billions of lives will be seriously disrupted for weeks and probably months; that, before it is over, many people will die; and that the economic implications are beyond dire. (For more coverage of covid-19 see our coronavirus hub.)

As stockmarkets in America experienced one of the worst days in their history, in many countries the incremental stepping up of relatively modest measures against the virus gave way to Draconian restrictions on travel and on daily life. This seemed to resolve a debate between advocates of two very different approaches.

11 March 2020

Fight Pandemics Like Wildfires

By Catherine Machalaba and William B. Karesh

As the new coronavirus spreads around the world, causing markets to plunge and analysts to slash growth projections, the epidemic’s potential to damage the global economy is rapidly becoming clear. The regions in China that have been hardest hit by the virus, which originated in Hubei Province late last year, are home to millions of businesses that in turn supply an estimated 56,000 multinational companies. Already, many of these multinationals are experiencing disruptions in their supply chains, as vital manufacturing components from China are delayed. The effects will likely reach tech giants, pharmaceutical companies, heavy manufacturers, and other industries as well.

China finally appears to be getting the outbreak under control. After fumbling its initial response, the government is rushing to reopen factories and scale up manufacturing to meet global demand. Employers are reportedly offering paid plane tickets to coax workers back to factories and offices. But these efforts are likely to be hampered by worker hesitation and by lack of trust in Chinese institutions. And even if China can resume a normal level of business, supply chains could take longer to catch up. Disruptions may be felt for months in the form of reduced supply and higher prices.

Can North Korea Cope With the Coronavirus?

By Sue Mi Terry

As the coronavirus spreads around the globe, infecting more than 92,000 people and killing at least 3,125 to date, it raises an unsettling question: Will the outbreak spread to North Korea? And if it does, will the famously insular and impoverished state be able to cope?

North Korea is uniquely unprepared for a medical emergency of this magnitude. With a crumbling health-care system that is starved of public investment, it is arguably more vulnerable to a viral outbreak of this kind than any other country in the world. Pyongyang is well aware of this. It has hermetically sealed its borders, suspended all tourism, quarantined all foreign nationals, shut down many public sites, and closed all schools for a month

So far, these measures have kept the number of infections in North Korea at zero, at least if the government’s official figures are to be believed. (Both the South Korean and the U.S. news media have reported on multiple suspected cases in the country.) If the virus does gain a foothold in the country, or indeed if it already has, the humanitarian consequences will likely be severe. But even if Pyongyang manages to prevent an outbreak, doing so will have second-order economic effects that will prove extremely damaging—and could weaken the regime’s hold on power. 

A CRISIS WAITING TO HAPPEN

10 March 2020

How an Elaborate North Korean Crypto Heist Fell Apart


At the end of 2018, North Korea carried out a heist. Hackers acting on behalf of the secretive state infiltrated and extracted more than $250 million (£195m) in cryptocurrency. Where the theft took place is a mystery, but the elaborate scheme the hackers used to move the funds back within North Korea has now started to unravel.

At the center of the heist were two Chinese citizens—Tian Yinyin and Li Jiadong. The pair have been indicted by the US government, following an investigation by the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Internal Revenue Service, for their alleged role in the criminal behavior. They’re unlikely to ever be brought before the courts—they won’t be extradited, freely visit a nation that could extradite them, or visit America—but the charges are the latest in efforts by law enforcement and intelligence agencies to publicly shame hostile nation states for their online behavior.

The pair are accused of running an elaborate money-laundering scheme involving more than $100 million in cryptocurrency between hundreds of accounts, leaving a trail of disruption in their wake. The scheme used North Korean infrastructure to purchase 8,823 Apple iTunes gift cards for $1,448,694, created false identities, and built a sophisticated network of transactions.

4 March 2020

How North Korean Hackers Rob Banks Around the World


THE BILLS ARE called supernotes. Their composition is three-quarters cotton and one-quarter linen paper, a challenging combination to produce. Tucked within each note are the requisite red and blue security fibers. The security stripe is exactly where it should be and, upon close inspection, so is the watermark. Ben Franklin’s apprehensive look is perfect, and betrays no indication that the currency, supposedly worth $100, is fake.

Most systems designed to catch forgeries fail to detect the supernotes. The massive counterfeiting effort that produced these bills appears to have lasted decades. Many observers tie the fake bills to North Korea, and some even hold former leader Kim Jong-Il personally responsible, citing a supposed order he gave in the 1970s, early in his rise to power. Fake hundreds, he reasoned, would simultaneously give the regime much-needed hard currency and undermine the integrity of the US economy. The self-serving fraud was also an attempt at destabilization.

At its peak, the counterfeiting effort apparently yielded at least $15 million per year for the North Korean government, according to the Congressional Research Service. The bills ended up all over the world, allegedly distributed by an aging Irish man and laundered through a small bank in Macau. The North Koreans are believed to have supplemented the forging program with other illicit efforts. These ranged from trafficking opiates and methamphetamines to selling knockoff Viagra and even smuggling parts of endangered animals in secure diplomatic pouches. All told, the Congressional Research Service estimates that the regime at one point netted more than $500 million per year from its criminal activities.

27 February 2020

An ‘October Surprise’ From North Korea?

By Ankit Panda

North Korea, like all of northeast Asia, is occupied with containing the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. In the meantime, despite ending 2019 with an ominous tone concerning its weapons development programs, Pyongyang’s military activities have been modest.

For instance, despite appearances in mid-January that parade preparation was underway at a well-known site near Pyongyang, no parade took place on February 8 (the Korean People’s Army’s founding day). Since two unspecified engine tests at the liquid propellant engine test stand in December, North Korea has not carried out any major demonstrations.

But even with coronavirus taking up much of the North Korean leadership’s attention lately, efforts are no doubt underway to develop new systems. Kim Jong Un, after all, promised that the world would soon see a “new strategic weapon” during his address to the Fifth Plenum of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in the final days of 2019.

13 February 2020

Beyond North Korea: Fractures in the US-South Korea Alliance

By Clint Work

With U.S.-North Korea talks at an impasse and Pyongyang sticking to a tactically ambiguous line, attention has moved away from the Korean Peninsula. However, policymakers should not lose sight of ongoing developments within the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Although the Trump administration refers to the alliance as the “linchpin” of its Indo-Pacific strategy, and Congress passes resolutions in support of Asian allies, it is unclear whether U.S. policymakers fully appreciate the extent to which U.S. and South Korean perspectives diverge on fundamental bilateral and strategic issues.

Whether or not diplomacy with Pyongyang moves forward or continues to erode, alliance cohesion is crucial. Yet the allies face multiple interrelated challenges, which not only undermine cohesion vis-à-vis Pyongyang, but call into question the longevity of the alliance itself. These include tensions over the nature and scope of alliance cost-sharing; changes to the alliance’s bilateral military command architecture; and, more broadly, differing perspectives amid a shifting strategic context and rising China.

SMA Talks

3 February 2020

Millions of Soldiers: How to Deal With North Korea's Big and Powerful Army

by Kyle Mizokami

Key point: Pyongyang spends most of its money on its military. Although America is more advanced, you can bet North Korea would put up a big fight.

North Korea is just slightly larger than Ohio. To the south it borders South Korea, to the west it borders the Yellow Sea, and to the east it borders the Sea of Japan. To the North it shares an 880 mile border with China and a much smaller one with Russia. The southern border is heavily fortified, with a 2.5 mile demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. About a tenth of the population resides in the capital, Pyongyang, with the rest primarily residing in cities on both coastlines, often separated by water, hilly or rough terrain.

Any invasion of North Korea would have to take account these geographical realities. The 1.2 million man Korean People’s Army is organized into nineteen corps-sized units, including nine infantry corps, four mechanized corps, one armored corps, one artillery corps, the Pyongyang Defense Command, Missile Guidance Bureau and Light Infantry Instruction Guidance Bureau. More than half of these forces, particularly the mechanized, armor, and artillery forces are located near the DMZ, making an early cross-border assault unattractive.

The Korean War is unique in that a war has already been fought over the same terrain, against the same enemy, in a largely conventional war. Its legacy suggests that if the United States and South Korea wish to invade the North, an amphibious assault would be the opening blow. North Korea has 1,550 miles of coastline, and while not all of it is favorable to amphibious operations there is plenty that is.

2 February 2020

Kim Jong Unchained

By Aidan Foster-Carter

Whatever happened to the North Korea peace process, which in 2018 looked so promising?

We have been here before, in broad terms. So let us begin with some background.

Since the Korean War ended in 1953 – with an armistice only, no peace treaty ever followed – after three bloody and hugely destructive years, the peninsula has known a tense peace for two-thirds of a century. That peace, underpinned by allied deterrence, has been punctuated by regular crises – especially in the 30 years since North Korea’s nuclear ambitions began to be apparent, transforming the DPRK’s threat from a local to a global one.

In 1994, the Korean Peninsula came perilously close to a new war. The Kim regime defied the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by removing spent fuel from its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. That plutonium could have made half a dozen nuclear bombs. Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton took this threat so seriously that he considered a military strike, but drew back because the risks and casualties would have been unacceptably high. Instead, after ex-President Jimmy Carter’s semi-unauthorized visit to Pyongyang, Clinton switched to a peace process. That October, the United States and DPRK signed a detailed Agreed Framework (AF) for denuclearization.

31 January 2020

How the North Korean hackers behind WannaCry got away with a stunning crypto-heist

by Mike Orcutt
Source Link

Cyberattacks waged against cryptocurrency exchanges are now common, but the theft of just over $7 million from the Singapore-based exchange DragonEx last March stands out for at least three reasons. 

First there is the extremely elaborate phishing scheme the attackers used to get in, which involved not only fake websites but also fake crypto-trading bots. Then there’s slick way they laundered the crypto-cash they stole. Last but not least: they appear to have been working for Kim Jong-un.

The heist, new details of which were recently published by blockchain analytics firm Chainalysis, shows how good today’s digital bank robbers have become. And if this and other reports are correct in fingering North Korean hackers as the perpetrators, it looks to be part of a larger survival strategy by Kim’s regime, which has been cut off from the global financial system by international economic sanctions meant to curtail its nuclear weapons program.

What Are the Implications of South Korea’s Decision to Send a Naval Unit to the Strait of Hormuz?

By Hae Won Jeong

The announcement by the Republic of Korea (ROK) Ministry of National Defense (MND) that it would independently deploy the Cheonghae naval unit to the Strait of Hormuz on January 21 was met with mixed reactions from the United States, the Gulf states — namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Iran, and the South Korean public. The decision came amid mounting pressures for South Korea to join the U.S.-led maritime force in the Strait of Hormuz following escalations from the Fujairah tanker attacks on May 19, 2019 and the Saudi Aramco attack on September 14, 2019 to the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander, Qassem Soleimani, on January 3.

Amid the tensions, U.S. President Donald Trump called on the major oil importers to increase their burden sharing by contributing their own troops to protect “their own ships” and shipping lanes.

The pressure on South Korea to share the burden of defending shipping lanes in the Middle East comes amid deadlocked negotiations on a different form of burden-sharing. While South Korea has been an ally of the United States since the Korean War, the Trump administration has demanded that Seoul massively increase its contribution to the costs of stationing U.S. troops on its soil. South Korea had agreed to pay $927 million in the last Special Measures Agreement signed in February 2019, which is a $70.3 million increase from the previous agreement. And yet, U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper continued to urge South Korea to increase its financial contributions for hosting over 28,000 U.S. troops during his visit to South Korea in November 2019, further hinting at the prospects of concluding future host-nation support agreements as one-year deals rather than the usual five-year agreements.

4 January 2020

To Successfully Denuclearize North Korea, Washington Should Make it Think Like South Africa

by Andrea Stricker

After Kim Jung Un declined to deliver on his promised “Christmas gift,” North Korea watchers are turning their attention to the New Year and the possibility of more than the usual fireworks display over Northeast Asia. In October, Pyongyang gave Washington a year-end deadline to make progress on bilateral negotiations before canceling a voluntary two-year moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

President Donald Trump’s negotiators and their South Korean counterparts are seeking to convince Kim to talk instead of test, but what they should be doing is recalling the lessons of a previous case of nuclear dismantlement. The 1991 decision by South Africa to abandon nuclear weapons shows that the regime in North Korea may not yet face adequate pressure to denuclearize.

Of ten total countries that have possessed nuclear weapons, only South Africa verifiably gave them up. The longtime holdout surprised the world when it announced it would sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Two years later, President F.W. de Klerk revealed that Pretoria had decommissioned six nuclear weapons, halted progress on a seventh, and dismantled his country’s nuclear weapons infrastructure and robust space launch and missile delivery programs.

26 December 2019

North Korea and the Threat of ICBMs


Rumors have been swirling that North Korea is about to test an intercontinental ballistic missile. The source for this latest rumor is U.S. intelligence, though North Korea has been warning it will perform such a test. North Korea tested three ICBM boosters in 2017. Those tests didn’t prove mastery of missile reentry capabilities or an effective guidance system, but if North Korea does successfully demonstrate such capabilities for an ICBM, it will change the dynamic between the North and the United States. Pyongyang has demonstrated its ability to field a nuclear weapon and to successfully test-fire non-intercontinental weapons. That means that the continental United States is not at risk of a nuclear attack from the North. But if an ICBM is successfully tested, that means that, regardless of intentions, North Korea has the ability to strike the United States. That would force the U.S. to rethink its strategy.

U.S. Strategy

The U.S. has accepted the idea that North Korea has the ability to strike neighboring countries allied with the United States, including Japan and South Korea. The United States had no strategy for neutralizing the North’s nuclear capability. An attack on nuclear facilities with non-nuclear weapons would have probably eliminated the weapons, but its success would have depended on two things. First, that the intelligence the U.S. had on the location of these facilities was completely accurate. Second, that all facilities that needed to be struck were vulnerable to air attack or possibly attack by special operations forces. Some, particularly those housing key facilities and storage, might have been buried deep underground or hardened in some way to render them minimally vulnerable to non-nuclear military action.

24 December 2019

The Top Ten Geopolitical Risks for 2020 (North Korea, Elections, China and Much More)

by Robert A. Manning, Mathew Burrows

What will happen next year in global politics? We have some ideas.

2019 did not offer any great surprises or ‘Black Swans,’ but the fragile world order did move further down the path of unraveling. 2020 will likely bear more resemblance to the 1930s, as some of the developments which did not reach a denouement in the past year cross the finish line. Several simmering conflicts, symptoms of a global system under strain from US President Donald J. Trump’s “anti-globalist” America First doctrine, could well reach breakpoints in 2020. This may include a shift from the mere corroding of multilateral institutions and US alliances toward total dysfunction. Growing global populist and nationalist outbursts are likely to dampen the potential for global cooperation, despite authoritarians facing more pressure from their citizens. 2020 could also see US allies and partners continuing to move beyond just hedging against US uncertainty towards pursuing global diplomacy and establishing new institutions without the United States following a potential Trump reelection.

18 December 2019

South Korea Attempts to Deal With the Dark Web

By Troy Stangarone

In October, law enforcement officials in South Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom announced that over 300 individuals had been arrested in cooperation with 35 other countries in connection with an investigation into a shuttered child pornography site on the dark web. Authorities were able to take down the site by tracing the bitcoin transactions that were used as payment. They were also able to rescue 23 underage victims.

The shuttered website, Welcome to Video, has been described as the largest child pornography site discovered to date and explicitly only allowed users to upload child pornography. It contained more than 250,000 unique videos and is estimated to have distributed over a million videos.

The dark web was originally conceived in the 1990s as an encrypted and anonymized network inaccessible by ordinary internet users that would allow for sensitive communications between U.S. spies. While that initial vision didn’t come to fruition, there was hope that it could provide human rights activists and others an anonymous means of communications — particularly those who face monitored communications in authoritarian states. But it has also become a source of criminal activity, especially with the advent of means of payment outside of the control of national governments in the form of cryptocurrency.

17 December 2019

Why the US should increase cyber pressure against North Korea

by Mark Pomerleau

A new report offers several recommendations, including cyber and influence campaigns, for maintaining and even ratcheting up pressure on the North Korean regime.

The report, released Dec. 13 by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explains that the Trump administration must do more to deter and impose costs on the regime of Kim Jong Un. The report is issued under the guise of coaxing more concessions from the hermit kingdom regarding its nuclear program.

The report calls for a more aggressive cyber approach, to include more offensive cyber action, as well as an increased information operations campaign aimed at three sets of internal targets: the regime elite, the second-tier leadership and the North Korean people.

On the cyber operational front, the report argues that Washington should engage in cyber operations that restrict North Korea’s adversarial cyber capabilities, such as dismantling networks used for hacking.