Intelligence: June 4, 2003

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South Korea has, for half a century, devoted considerable resources to finding out what North Korea is up to. This is not easy, for North Korea is the most repressive police state on the planet. Because of the difficulty in getting information out, the southerners rarely release detailed information to the public. This is to protect the few sources they have up there, or methods the northerners could foil if they found out what the southerners were doing. In the last few years, alarmed at the more warlike behavior of the north, and the larger number of people getting out, South Korea has been releasing more information. Some of these revelations have been incredible, like those decades ago about the huge tunnel system the North Koreans were digging into mountains. The latest one has to do with North Koreas cyberwarriors academy. It's been known for years that North Koreas Mirim College trains students in computer skills. But now South Korea claims that, for the last twenty years, about a hundred graduates a year have been trained in cyberwarfare techniques (hacking other networks and damaging them). It's long been known that current North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, is a computer buff and big fan of the Internet. Two decades ago, personal computers were new, Kim had plenty of time on his hands (daddy was still running the country) and the first consumer computer networks were coming into use (Compuserve). North Korea was also known to be interested in computers, at least for military purposes and making their vast security forces more efficient. Personal computers were readily available, and relatively cheap. By the 1990s, Kim Jong Ils computer enthusiasm led to the building of an internal Internet (a network using Internet technology, but not connected to the Internet), or intranet, to tie together government, police and military organizations. Very few people in North Korea have Internet access, and little traffic is seen going into or out of the Internet links the north does have. All of this makes North Korea pretty invulnerable to a cyberwar attack. South Korea is a different story, with more Internet capacity per capita than any other country on the planet. South Korea took to the Internet in a big way, but this has meant that the South is very vulnerable to a cyberwar attack. If North Korea does have a unit of cyberwarriors, they have the juiciest target just to the south. On the other hand, it more likely that those Mirim College grads are hard at work maintaining the government intranet, not plotting cyberwar against the south. Moreover, North Korea has been providing programming services to South Korean firms. Not a lot, but the work is competent, and cheap. So there is some software engineering capability north of the DMZ. Just to be on the safe side, South Korea has a large cyberwar training program of its own that has so far produced over 200,000 "information technicians." 

 


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