It was previously believed that North Korea’s cyber force numbered around 3,000, the Washington Post reports. Despite endemic poverty and malnutrition among much of its citizenry, the Pyongyang regime has still managed to muster the resources necessary to maintain a large cyber warfare force capable of inflicting damage upon the South.
The South Korean Defense Ministry said the North’s cyber warriors are dedicated to “paralyzing the South psychologically and materially” and have been launching electronic attacks targeting military and government networks. South Korea has accused its neighbor, which is ruled by the brutal Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-un, of carrying out at least half a dozen major cyber attacks against it since 2007.
The United States has accused North Korea of a cyber attack targeting Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Hollywood film studio which produced The Interview, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco which skewers Kim. The film’s scheduled nationwide Christmas day release was suspended after many of the largest US cinema chains cancelled screenings.
Although Pyongyang denies being behind the attack, the Obama administration has responded by tightening already severe economic sanctions against North Korea. The ‘hermit kingdom’s’ limited Internet network has also been repeatedly knocked offline by unknown cyber assailants, with many believing Washington to be conducting ‘retaliatory’ action.
The North’s cyber warfare activities have an air of irony, since most North Koreans, who live under what is arguably the most repressive regime on earth, have never even used or seen the Internet before.
The Korean peninsula remains technically in a state of war, since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. There are still some 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea to deter a possible North Korean attack.
In related news, the South Korean Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that North Korea may have developed missiles capable of striking the United States mainland, and that Pyongyang is attempting to miniaturize nuclear warheads to fit atop such missiles. North Korea has conducted three nuclear weapons tests since 2006, most recently in 2013.
Pyongyang says it is developing missiles to launch satellites, and that its nuclear arsenal is a necessary deterrent against American aggression.