Reports claim that North Korea “has hacked USD 1.7 billion worth of crypto from exchanges,” and rather than exchanging them for cash right away, experts say that Pyongyang is thought to be long on its bitcoin acquisition.
According to the US federal prosecutor-released comments, North Korean hackers have been conspiring with other money-laundering offenders to steal cryptoassets from at least three virtual asset exchanges before laundering the proceeds.
According to reports from the American blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis and the South Korea-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies (a major international policy think tank), three notable crypto exchange robberies have been directly linked to North Korea - a Slovenian platform hack in 2017, an Indonesian raid in 2018, and a 2020 New York heist.
In addition to last year's proposed assassination, South Korea has accused North Korea of conducting a ransomware attack on Bithumb in 2017. American experts have also blamed Pyongyang for the USD 281 million hack on KuCoin, while Seoul claims that North Korea was behind two devastating 2017 assaults on YouBit, an international Bitcoin exchange that was forced to shut after the the second hack.
According to Seoul and Washington-based experts, North Korea has trained a cluster of at least 20-30 elite cyber warriors – instructing them to attack Western and Western-allied crypto targets with impunity.
While some claim that North Korea is using its allegedly ill-gotten crypto assets to finance weapons programs, others doubt this—and suggest the country might be hodling its funds instead for now.
Koh Myung-hyun, a Senior Research Fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, was reported to have said:
“Considering the fact that the price of bitcoin (CRYPTO:BTC) has risen more than 60 times since 2017, when North Korean hackers started hacking cryptocurrency exchanges in earnest, North Korea is using the stolen cryptocurrency from the perspective of long-term investment. For North Korea, cryptocurrency has become the only financial asset that can be acquired while it is under tight economic sanctions, and [recognizes its value] for sanctions evasion-related purposes.”
However, according to experts in South Korea, the final obstacle faced by North Korean hackers is to sell their stolen crypto assets.
They believe North Korea will convert the tokens into money eventually, after which they opine that the country wants to use the money to build a long-awaited coastal tourist attraction - the planned Wonsan-Kalma Tourist Area (which was first announced in 2014) - as well as a new flagship general hospital in Pyongyang.