Instead, the next step in North Korea’s quest for economic superiority is elite and highly skilled state-sponsored crypto-currency hackers.
It’s unorthodox, sure, but to their credit — extremely effective.
In 2015, the Central Bank of Bangladesh was ransacked. 81 million dollars – gone. Just last year 13.5 million more were stolen from India’s Cosmos Bank. Even as far as the Bank of Chile reported 10 million missing. The UN believes that this group of Korean hackers is to blame. According to their report, North Korea has raked in $670 million in foreign and cryptocurrency. Crypto-theft has already become a hallmark of North Korean economics. Unless North Korea ends the operation (extremely unlikely) more and more international banks will suffer the same fate.
Experts at Group-IB came to the conclusion last year that North Korea is to blame for 65% of all cryptocurrency hacks. Keep in mind that this is just a projection, as it’s difficult, in some cases impossible, to trace the exact attacker. Crypto-theft is not only more safe for the criminal than ordinary theft, but also much more lucrative for a rogue state like North Korea.
This difficulty in finding the culprit is perfect for the Korean situation. They can simply deny, deny, deny, and not face any real consequences. Crypto-theft is an international crisis, and thanks to North Korea, it’s not getting any better.
More than twenty North Korean officials were caught trafficking drugs in the late 70’s to early 2000’s. Instead of cutting this problem, the DPRK decided to take a different, if slightly unsavory approach. Around 2001, the North Korean government began to not only traffic drugs on a federal level but produce and supply to major criminal organizations.
It’s clear North Korea is no stranger to shady, if not outright illegal operations.
To be fair, the DPRK has faced significant economic sanctions for decades now, making it awfully hard, maybe even impossible, to produce sufficient income legally. Considering the reputation that North Korea carries, few countries wish to be associated with them, let alone establish trade or other economic ventures. As a result, this 1984-esque state’s economy is in (for a large part) shambles.
The main issue with North Korea’s tendency toward crime is that they are usually caught, and it doesn’t fill the DPRK’s empty coffers. If North Korea cares at all about its international reputation, abandoning (or at least having the appearance of doing so) crime would be essential. Unfortunately, theft and illegal activities are already ingrained in the DPRK’s economy and there are no plans of real reform.
Of course, it is extremely illegal for the citizens of the DPRK to be anywhere near these drugs. The DPRK has even recently begun to counterfeit foreign currency in an attempt to make ends meet.