The Defense Ministry is pushing to adopt a proactive cyberoperations policy in a departure from a passive defense-oriented one amid North Korea’s stepped-up efforts to bolster cyberwarfare capabilities.
During a parliamentary audit on Wednesday, the ministry reported its plan to enhance cyberoperations that include preemptive attacks, to more actively deal with the evolving cyberthreats from the North.
“We will change what has so far been a passive-defensive policy into a proactive one. Taking advantage of the enemy’s vulnerabilities, we will take preemptive action to fend off cyberinfiltrations,” said a ministry official, declining to be named.
The ministry also plans to expand the areas of its cyberoperations to include various communications tools such as mobile devices and the Internet of Things, which means the interconnection of embedded computing devices within the existing Internet infrastructure.
The ministry also plans to increase the number of cyberoperatives to 1,000 from the current 600.
Bae Nak-jong, head of the Criminal Investigation Command under the Defense Ministry, speaks during a parliamentary audit at the ministry building in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Seoul’s moves to increase cyberwarfare capabilities came amid increasing North Korean threats in the new security domain.
The North has established a strategic cyberwarfare command and bolstered its cybersecurity personnel, according to the ministry. The communist state has nearly doubled its number of cyberwarfare operatives to around 5,900 over the last two years.
The number of cyberattacks by the North on the South Korean military has been increasing. The number of attacks between January and September this year was tallied at 1,560, up 421 cases from the same period last year.
Pyongyang has been bolstering its cyberwarfare resources in line with its efforts to strengthen asymmetric military capabilities in recognition of the difficulty of handling South Korea’s advanced conventional weapons systems, analysts said.
Meanwhile, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said during a parliamentary audit that the North is seeking a turnaround in inter-Korean relations by sending a high-level delegation to the South and agreeing to hold high-level talks with it.
The ministry also said the North was striving to improve its external image and diversify diplomatic strategies to address its deepening international isolation, but such efforts have not yielded any notable progress yet.
The ministry pointed out that Joseon Sinbo, a magazine published by pro-North Koreans in Japan, described last week’s visit by top North Korean officials as the “supreme leader’s decision and a chance to improve inter-Korean relations.” The description suggests the North’s desire to improve ties with the South, the ministry said.
Struggling with sanctions stemming from its nuclear and missile development, Pyongyang has been striving to improve its moribund economy. Economic reconstruction is a crucial task for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who has been striving to ensure the loyalty of his people.
As to the economic conditions in the North, the ministry said that on the surface, the situation seems to be improving with the spread of market activities. But as the North holds on to its policy of simultaneously pursuing nuclear armament and economic development, there are obstacles to its attempts at attracting foreign investments, the ministry explained.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)