South Korea Seeks to Freeze North’s Crypto Assets Under New Law

The government in Seoul intends to submit new legislation tailored to facilitate the tracking and freezing of crypto used to fund the weapons programs of North Korea. A bill has been drafted after extended consultations between ministries with the aim to make South Korean sanctions more effective and improve the country’s cybersecurity.

South Korean Government Takes Aim at DPRK’s Stolen Digital Assets

A bill that will allow the Republic of Korea to better track and freeze assets obtained through crypto theft by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to be submitted by the government in Seoul, the Korea Joongang Daily reported.

The legislation was initially announced by the South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) in November but President Yoon Suk Yeol sent it back for revision, demanding “practical measures to bolster national security,” the publication noted, quoting sources familiar with the matter.

The draft law has been revised during months-long consultations between different ministries “to add teeth to the South’s existing sanctions” and reflect the president’s call for an urgent repair of the country’s cybersecurity framework, the newspaper revealed on Monday.

Citing an “administration insider,” Joongang wrote that the latest version of the bill features measures to “track and neutralize virtual coins and other cryptocurrency assets stolen by the North through hacking,” which were not in the original bill.

The regime in Pyongyang has been accused by the South Korean intelligence of acquiring 1.7 trillion Korean won ($1.28 billion) worth of bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) in such attacks in 2022. And according to blockchain forensics firm Chainalysis, North Korean hackers have stolen more than $3 billion over the past five years.

Independent sanctions monitors reporting to the U.N. have found that hacking groups working for North Korea have continued to attack companies in the crypto space this year while its government proceeds with the development of its nuclear and weapons programs.

Besides the new bill, the South Korean president’s administration also plans to set up a national committee that will deal with cybersecurity issues. Subordinated to the president, it will be headed by the chief of the National Security Office and include as a member the director of NIS.

Do you think South Korea will manage to deal with the North’s crypto hacking attempts? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below.

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