N. Korean phishing site steals info of defectors, activists


A North Korean hacking group known as “APT37” created a phishing website disguised as a renowned North Korean human rights organization in order to steal the personal information of defectors and experts on the country, reports suggest:

According to the cybersecurity firm Genians on Friday, APT37 sent an email to activists on July 24 disguised as a notice about an actual program run by the U.S. nonprofit Liberty in North Korea to promote human rights in the North.

At the bottom of the emails, the group attached a homepage link for those interested in learning about the program, bringing users to the phishing site made by the hackers to seize personal information entered by users. The security firm assessed that the cyber scheme was intended to monitor the everyday life of experts on North Korea and steal their personal information.

North Korea’s informational blockade is unparalleled in the modern world, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) adds.

Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the regime shut down its borders and used pandemic prevention measures to justify severe crackdowns against outside information. The regime introduced draconian new laws that imposed penalties, up to and including execution, for those found viewing or distributing “reactionary ideology and culture,” including South Korean dramas and foreign news. Despite such steep penalties, demand for objective outside information has never been higher in North Korea. Technological strides and marketization have allowed residents to evade government controls and continue to seek out and consume foreign content, ranging from K-pop to civic education.

The tension between the regime’s isolationist policies and residents’ curiosity about the outside world lies at the heart of determining North Korea’s future. Thoughtfully formulated outside content can empower North Koreans to aspire for rights and freedoms and conceive of a democratic future. Unification Media Group (UMG), a Seoul-based media nonprofit, stands at the frontlines of this information battle. With over 15 years of experience working to provide North Koreans with the information they need, UMG prides itself on its one-of-a-kind feedback mechanisms to gather responses from residents in-country and ensure that they receive the objective information they seek.

On September 19, UMG will launch an international conference for freedom of information in North Korea in partnership with NED. UMG will shed light on the black box of North Korea’s media environment and explore emerging opportunities for access, while defectors share their firsthand experience of life in North Korea and the transformative impact foreign content had on their lives.

Cracking the Information Blockade: Advancing Freedom of Information in North Korea

Tuesday, September 19, 2023
9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. ET
National Endowment for Democracy
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC, 20004

This event will be held in-person only. Please RSVP by September 13, 2023.

Simultaneous interpretation (Korean, English) will be available for all guests. 

Event Agenda                                      
8:45am | Registration

9:00am | Welcoming Remarks
Damon Wilson, President and CEO, National Endowment for Democracy

Special Speaker, Opening Remarks to be announced.

9:30-10:30am | Panel 1: North Korea’s Post-Covid Media Landscape
Kwangbaek Lee, President, Unification Media Group

Unification Media Group Content Distributed in North Korea Over the Last Three Years
Jeong-Ah Yang, Chief Producer, Unification Media Group

10:45-11:45am | Panel 2: Marketization and Freedom of Information as Key Contributors to Forming a Civil Society in North Korea
Andrew Yeo, Senior Fellow –Foreign Policy, Center for East Asia Policy Studies, SK-Korea Foundation Chair in Korea Studies, Brookings

An Inside Look: How North Koreans’ Perspective on the Role of Outside Information
Seong Guk Choi, Webtoon author, defector

Ji Hyeon Kang, CEO of ISTORY, defector

11:45am-12:30pm | Panel 3: Policy and Programmatic Implications
Additional speakers to be announced

12:30–1:30pm | Lunch with Exhibition Featuring North Korean Media Devices. RSVP

Print Friendly, PDF & Email