Law enforcement agencies are launching a massive anti-communist investigation after a list of some 2,000 South Korean members of a North Korean propaganda website was disclosed Thursday by international hackers.
The National Intelligence Service, prosecution and police jointly began a preliminary probe Friday over whether the subscribers have engaged in pro-Pyongyang activities in violation of the National Security Act.
North Korean propaganda Internet sites such as Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front and Our Nation School bear traces of hacking, such as the photo of leader Kim Jong-un superimposed with a pig character. (Yonhap News)
Anonymous, an international hacker activist group, revealed 9,001 user records late Thursday which it claimed to have extracted from Uriminzokkiri.com, Pyongyang’s official website.
Some 2,000 of them contained email accounts provided by South Korean portals such as Naver and Daum, companies including Samsung and LG, or media organizations.
A membership in a North Korean site itself does not constitute a breach of the anti-communist law, officials said, adding that they will search for activities such as posting pro-North Korean comments and downloading and distributing related documents.
“We’ll undertake an official investigation if we detect suspicious accounts while examining the released records from the National Security Act’s perspective,” a police official was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
Uriminzokkiri.com is a major propaganda channel run by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. The Seoul government designated it as a “harmful” site and blocked public access in 2004.
It was one of at least six North Korean-run online sites that appeared to have been compromised. Its Twitter and Flickr pages stopped posting photos of leader Kim Jong-un and senior officials and other typical content glorifying the regime.
Instead, the Flickr account showed an animated “Wanted” posture featuring leader Kim Jong-un with a pig nose and ears and a Mickey Mouse tattoo on his chest. The attached text read “Wanted: Kim Jong-un, A.K.A. Nuke Nuke Mickey Lover,” offering a $1 million reward for his capture.
Another posting carried a statement reading “We are Anonymous” in white letters in a black background.
“Threatening world peace with ICBMs and nuclear weapons; Wasting money while his people starve to death; Concentration Camps and the worst human rights violation in the world,” it read.
On Twitter, the Uriminzok account had a photo of a couple dancing the Tango as its profile picture and tweets saying “Tango Down” and “Hacked.”
The incident comes at the height of tension on the peninsula. Pyongyang has threatened an “all-out nuclear war” against South Korea and the U.S. since the U.N. imposed a fresh round of crippling sanctions to punish its February nuclear test and the allies kicked off their annual joint military drills last month.
It also followed a massive crash of computer networks at major broadcasters and banks in Seoul late March.
Though authorities have yet to determine the attackers, officials and experts pinpointed North Korea as the likely suspect in light of past cases and patterns and its recent threats.
Pyongyang, for its part, accused Seoul and Washington of “persistent and intensive” cyber attacks that led a number of its official websites to break down for about two days last month.
By Shin Hyon-hee