Did North Korea Attack South Korea’s Media & Banks?

South Korea Banks
South Korea’s financial and media networks went out Tuesday after a cyber attack.

Somebody launched a cyber attack against South Korea in the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday, crashing the networks of major banks and media networks. For the past few weeks, watchers of North Korea have warned that North Korea was capable of such an attack. In fact, they’ve launched such cyber attacks in the past, though the scale and complexity of this one makes it unique.

Typically, North Korea’s cyber attacks are simple Denial of Service attacks that shut down targeted websites and online services. KTracy.com has actually been the target of a few by a handful of tin-foil hat fashion models, also known as Paulers. And anything a Pauler can do, a North Korean communist can do just as well… if not better.

All indications so far are that this wasn’t a mere Denial of Service attack. It was significantly more complicated than that and much more wide-reaching. It seems likely that malware was spread in the form of automatic security software updates from the company servers.

While some believe North Korea is only a cyber scapegoat used by South Korea; others (including myself) suspect North Korea simply because of the timing and targets of this attack.

Let’s look at the events of the past few months.

2012 December 11 – North Korea launches a satellite into orbit: a critical step in the development of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) technology.

2013 February 12 – North Korea tests a nuclear weapon.

2013 March 7 – The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed new financial restrictions on North Korea that prevent its banks from doing business outside of North Korea. North Korea responds by saying a Second Korean War is inevitable (even though technically, the first Korean War never ended).

2013 March 11 – North Korea ends the 1953 cease-fire agreement.

2013 March 15 – North Korea accuses the United States of hacking its internet servers and shutting down its internet; which primarily consists of three websites: KCNA, Air Koryo and Rodong Sinmun.

2013 March 20 – South Korea’s banking and media networks are taken offline.

Here’s why this is such a big deal. If North Korea truly wanted (or needed) to go to war with South Korea, what networks would they target? First and foremost, they would go after the financial institutions because if South Korea’s money is frozen, the ability of South Korea to wage war is significantly limited. Ordering weapons, dressing soldiers, securing resources, moving fuel, and evacuating millions of civilians, and feeding refugees while under fire is an enormous and expensive undertaking. Granted, the international community will help, but that help will take several days to arrive.

The second target? Media. One of the greatest strengths of a people is its ability to communicate. Especially in the western world, it’s one of our greatest assets. The ability of a government to organize its people in westernized countries like South Korea depends heavily on the media. If the media isn’t able to broadcast, the government will have a much more difficult time sending instructions to the people. What’s worse, it allows an invading country like North Korea the ability to spread false news and instructions; which would further incapacitate the ability of the South Koreans and their allies (our Allies) the ability to hamper the war effort in the all so critical first hours.

Is North Korea going to turn Seoul into a fiery vision of hell? Probably not anytime soon. Despite all the rhetoric, it’s more than likely just posturing by Kim Jong Un both outside and inside North Korea. Outside the country because he needs to build North Korea’s military exports. If he can position himself as the leader of the anti-American movement in the world, it will be a lot easier to operate around UN Sanctions.

North Korea at night
Here, you can see the obviously superior electrical grid of North Korea. This was not PhotoShopped.

Inside North Korea is probably the biggest threat to Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s military is aggressively trained to go to war and, courtesy of communist propaganda, they have no doubt in their minds that they will crush us. When you see your family suffering at home because of the west (again, propaganda); you want to go to war. Kim Jong Un (like his father and grandfather) is in a totally different boat. Like any intelligent dictator, Kim Jong Un is primarily concerned with staying in power. Kim Jong Un knows perfectly well that the fastest ticket out of power is a war with the United States of America. Coincidentally, it’s also the fastest ticket to hell.

Therefore, the last thing Kim Jong Un wants is to go to war with the United States. So he’s stuck between two extremes, a military coup on one hand and a war with the US on the other: his survival depends on balance. His first priority is throwing out a ton of rhetoric to make North Korea and it’s military believe he’s as gung-ho as them. Consider that ending the ceasefire really didn’t do anything to make war easier with South Korea.  In fact, there may have been a strategic element of surprise as long as the ceasefire was still holding.  In reality, North Korea doesn’t care if it breaks a treaty when it’s going to war with the civilized world.  This was done entirely for internal propaganda purposes. Doing this will earn Kim Jong un the loyalty he needs to conduct foreign affairs almost any way he wants to without military backlash in North Korea. After he feels he has secured the loyalty of the military, the rhetoric from Kim Jong Un and North Korea will die down.


That’s the worst part about this. North Korea is still years away from putting a nuclear warhead on an ICBM, let alone aiming the thing. North Korea isn’t a threat to the United States as much as it is a threat to the people of South Korea. Being told, “Oh, they probably won’t barbecue you and the rest of Seoul this year,” isn’t very reassuring. Especially when North Korea keeps antagonizing South Korea and appearing as though it is testing the capabilities of South Korean cyber security and their responses.

North Korea has a ton of conventional firepower along the DMZ, and the military there is ready and anxious to use it.  Underestimating the strength of North Korea (which has been building its arsenal on the DMZ since the cease-fire was first agreed to.

GD Star Rating
Did North Korea Attack South Korea's Media & Banks?, 3.7 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
Kevin Tracy is an Air Force veteran, terrorism/counterterrorism expert, and jack of all trades. KTracy's day job is designing electrical systems for new fossil power plants and environmental solutions. On the side, he keeps a blog, fundraises for political candidates and the St. Baldrick's Foundation, writes and illustrates comic books, and studies foreign affairs in depth.

One thought on “Did North Korea Attack South Korea’s Media & Banks?”

Leave a Reply