South Korea Wants to Freeze North Korea’s Crypto Assets

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  • South Korea is planning legislation to monitor and freeze North Korean crypto assets linked to illicit weapons programs
  • The proposed bill aims to “track and neutralize” stolen crypto assets from cyberattacks and establishes a national cybersecurity committee
  • North Korean hackers have siphoned approximately $2 billion from cyberattacks since 2018, directing these funds toward their nuclear weapons program

The South Korean government is preparing to introduce legislation aimed at monitoring and freezing North Korean cryptocurrency and virtual assets used to finance illicit weapons programs. Local media outlet Korea JoongAng Daily recently cited multiple government sources as saying that the development was needed in order to enhance the nation’s cybersecurity framework. North Korea is known to have put funds from cyber attacks, which total over $2 billion, towards its nuclear weapons programme.

Surveillance Plan Upgraded to Include Seizure

The proposed bill includes provisions to “track and neutralize” cryptocurrency and virtual assets stolen by the rogue state through cyberattacks, a feature not present in the initial proposal by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in November 2022.

Additionally, the government plans to establish a national cybersecurity committee directly under the president’s control, which would be responsible for bolstering defenses against foreign hacking attempts.

The committee will be overseen by the National Security Office’s chief and will include the NIS director. 

No Question Over Plan’s Merits

The need for such a plan is obvious: North Korean hackers have perpetrated significant cryptocurrency thefts through various exploits over the years, with estimated losses of over $2 billion since 2018, including $200 million in 2023 alone.

Of more concern is where the funds have gone, with observers noting that the funds from crypto thefts have gone directly to funding the nation’s nuclear weapons programme.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has taken steps to track North Korean state-backed hackers and in recent months has met with success; in August it flagged six Bitcoin wallets linked to the North Korean hacking group Lazarus, containing 1,580), valued at approximately $40 million, believed to be proceeds from various cyberattacks.