The names, birth dates and addresses of 997 North Korean defectors were confirmed to have been leaked through a personal computer infected with a malicious code, according to the ministry.
"Recognizing a possibility of one personal computer at the Hana Center in North Gyeongsang Province having been hacked, we carried out an on-site probe on Dec. 19 in cooperation with the provincial government and the center and confirmed the computer was infected with a malicious code," the ministry said.
"In that computer, there was a file containing personal information of North Korean defectors. The file was confirmed to have been leaked," it added.
Hana Centers are tasked with facilitating North Korean defectors' settlement in South Korea. There are 25 such centers across the country to provide support for the roughly 30,000 North Korean defectors who live in the country.
Probes into computers at other centers were conducted but no additional hacking or data leaks have been confirmed, the ministry said.
This is the first such large-scale information leak involving North Korean defectors, the ministry said.
The affected defectors have been notified of the leak, the ministry said, adding that there have been no reports of damage.
Investigation is underway to determine who was behind the cyber attack and where it came from.
The ministry said that it will work with police to get to the bottom of the hack and do its best to prevent such an incident from happening again.
The government is pushing to separate computers for data storage from those for Internet use at Hana centers in order to prevent such cyber attacks. The so-called network separation plan will be enforced starting next year, the ministry said. (Yonhap)