7th US-ROK Cyber Policy Consultations to Strengthen Cyber Resilience in ASEAN region
| IOP Desk - 24 Jan 2024

The US and the Republic of Korea reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cyber resilience in the ASEAN region

The Consultations included discussion of strengthening regional cooperation on cyber capacity building and efforts to combat cybercrime.  In particular, the United States and the Republic of Korea reaffirmed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation, strengthen cyber resilience in the ASEAN region, and to counter Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cyber threats, including the DPRK’s revenue generation through malicious cyber activity to its regime’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

By Onkareshwar Pandey

The United States and the Republic of Korea have reaffirmed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation, strengthen cyber resilience in the ASEAN region, and to counter Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cyber threats, including the DPRK’s revenue generation through malicious cyber activity to its regime’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. 

Officials from both countries met in Seoul, Korea last week on January 19, 2024 for the 7th U.S.-ROK Cyber Policy Consultations in their committment into fostering greater regional cybersecurity cooperation and capacity building, as well as the importance of continued implementation of cyber confidence building measures to reduce the risk of misperception and escalation in cyberspace.  

The Cyber Policy Consultations were chaired by U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Cyberspace Security in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Liesyl Franz and Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ambassador for International Security Affairs Rhee Dong-yeol. 

The U.S. delegation included representatives from the Office of the National Cyber Director, and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and Justice, including the Criminal Division and Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

The Republic of Korea was represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with participation from the National Security Office, Ministry of National Defense, National Intelligence Service, Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, National Police Agency, and the Korea Internet & Security Agency.

Both sides provided updates on their respective national cyber policies and exchanged views on bilateral cyber cooperation and developments in regional and international fora.  Participants explored new ways for the United States and the Republic of Korea to promote an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable Internet and a stable cyberspace.  

The Consultations included discussion of strengthening regional cooperation on cyber capacity building and efforts to combat cybercrime.  In particular, the United States and the Republic of Korea reaffirmed their commitment to enhance bilateral cooperation, strengthen cyber resilience in the ASEAN region, and to counter Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) cyber threats, including the DPRK’s revenue generation through malicious cyber activity to its regime’s unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.

The Consultations acknowledged the work that has been done in fostering greater regional cybersecurity cooperation and capacity building, as well as the importance of continued implementation of cyber confidence building measures to reduce the risk of misperception and escalation in cyberspace.  This includes efforts advanced through the ASEAN Regional Forum Inter-Sessional Meeting on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies.

These Consultations are the first to be held since the announcement of the U.S.-ROK Strategic Cybersecurity Cooperation Framework in April 2023, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance.  The Consultations served as a venue to assess and further strengthen cyber cooperation between both sides.  The participants committed to further discussions on cyber policy over the course of 2024.

Earlier on Nov 30, 2023 the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in coordination with foreign partners, had sanctioned eight foreign-based Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) agents that facilitate sanctions evasion, including revenue generation and missile-related technology procurement that support the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

The US actions were in response to the DPRK’s November 21 claimed military reconnaissance satellite launch and demonstrates the multilateral efforts of the United States and foreign partners to hinder the DPRK’s ability to generate revenue, procure materiel, and gather intelligence that advances the development of its WMD program and the unlawful export of arms and related materiel from the DPRK.

DPRK WEAPONS SALES REPRESENTATIVES 

U.S. and UN-designated Green Pine is responsible for approximately half of DPRK arms and related materiel exports. The Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB)-controlled Green Pine specializes in the production of maritime military craft and armaments and has provided both technical assistance and weapons to Iranian defense-related firms. 

  • Kang Kyong Il and Ri Sung Il are Tehran, Iran-based Green Pine representatives. Kang Kyong Il has attempted to sell Chinese-origin aluminum and Ri Sung Il has worked with other DPRK representatives to sell conventional weapons to foreign governments. Both Kang Kyong Il and Ri Sung Il have travelled to China together on multiple occasions.
  •  Kang Phyong Guk is a Green Pine representative in Beijing, China and is a central liaison between Green Pine and its overseas representatives.

Ri Sung IlKang Kyong Il, and Kang Phyong Guk are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13551 for acting or purporting to act, for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Green Pine, an entity that was included in the Annex to E.O. 13551.

DPRK FINANCIAL REPRESENTATIVES

The DPRK continues to use agents and individuals associated with its state-owned entities and banks to access the international financial system to conduct illicit financial activity. They have long-standing networks of front or shell companies and use embassy personnel to move money and procure materiel for the DPRK’s WMD and ballistic missile programs as well as to procure conventional weapons. 

  • So Myong is the chief representative of FTB in Vladivostok, Russia and has facilitated financial transfers on behalf of designated DPRK financial institutions and weapons trading entities and including representatives, of the U.S.-designated Second Academy of Natural Sciences. So Myong is designated pursuant to E.O. 13382 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, FTB.
  • Choe Un Hyok is a KUDB representative in Russia who has coordinated multiple payments to an entity subordinate to the U.S. and UN-designated, Munitions Industry Department. Choe Un Hyok is designated pursuant to E.O. 13722 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf, of, directly or indirectly, KUDB.
  • Jang Myong Chol is a KCB representative in China that has facilitated transactions worth hundreds of thousands of dollarsJang Myong Chol is designated, pursuant to E.O. 13810 for having acted or purported to act for on or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, KCB.

DPRK FRONT COMPANIES

Additionally, OFAC is designating two individuals that have generated revenue for the Government of North Korea and were previously designated by the European Union for generating revenue through the exportation of DPRK workers.

  • Choe Song Chol and Im Song Sun have represented front companies for UN and U.S.-designated MOP. MOP was designated pursuant to E.O. 13722 for having engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea [OFAC Press Release

Choe Song Chol and Im Song Sun are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13810 for being North Korean persons, including a North Korean person who has engaged in commercial activity that generates revenue for the Government of North Korea or the Worker’s Party of Korea.

A CYBER ESPIONAGE UNIT WITH STRATEGIC SIGNIFICANCE

Active since 2012, Kimsuky is subordinate to the UN- and U.S. designated Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), the DPRK’s primary foreign intelligence service. On August 30, 2010, OFAC designated the RGB by adding it to the annex of E.O. 13551. OFAC subsequently re-designated the RGB on January 2, 2015 pursuant to E.O. 13687 for being a controlled entity of the Government of North Korea. Malicious cyber activity associated with the Kimsuky advanced persistent threat is also known in the cybersecurity industry as APT43, Emerald Sleet, Velvet Chollima, TA406, and Black Banshee.

Although Kimsuky is primarily an intelligence collection entity, its cyber espionage campaigns directly support the DPRK’s strategic and nuclear ambitions. Kimsuky primarily uses spear-phishing to target individuals employed by government, research centers, think tanks, academic institutions, and news media organizations, including entities in Europe, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Kimsuky employs social engineering to collect intelligence on geopolitical events, foreign policy strategies, and diplomatic efforts affecting its interests by gaining illicit access to the private documents, research, and communications of their targets.

Kimsuky is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13687, for being an agency, instrumentality, or a controlled entity of the Government of North Korea.

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File Photo - Courtesy - wfxrtv.com (In this photo provided by South Korea Presidential Office, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, left, poses for a photo with his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong during their meeting at the presidential office in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.( via AP)


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(Onkareshwar Pandey is Founder, Editor in Chief & CEO, Indian Observer Post and former Senior Group Editor- Rashtriya Sahara (Hindi & Urdu) and also former Editor, (News), ANI. http://bit.ly/2mh7hih Email - SMS- 9910150119)


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