North Korea holding $670 million in cryptocurrency
The secretive regime likely owns the equivalent of 175,000 BTC in bitcoin and other currencies, according to a UN report.
North Korea has probably amassed around two-thirds of a billion dollars in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies through hacking and theft, according to a panel of experts working for the UN Security Council. Reported in the Nikkei Asian Review, the findings suggest that Pyongyang is using cryptocurrency to circumvent international sanctions and help fund the regime.
North Korea, the most closed country on earth, is struggling as collective action to bring the Kim regime to heel bites into economic productivity. It is well known that Pyongyang supplements tax income with organised criminal activity, including the manufacture of bingdu – ‘ice’ or crystal meth – money counterfeiting, smuggling and extortion, as well as cyberattacks. (Much of this has been described from first-hand evidence in D. B. John’s book Star of the North.)
According to the report, which was obtained by Nikkei Asian Review, North Korea has waged cyberattacks on overseas financial institutions for a period of at least four years, from 2015 to 2018. The attacks are carried out by a special group within the North Korean military and are a key part of the country’s national policy.
Among successful attacks have been the hacking of Bangladesh’s central bank in 2016, which netted Pyongyang $81 million, and multiple attacks on different Asian digital currency exchanges in 2017 and 2018 – earning the state the equivalent of $571 million.
The report also found that North Korean officials are active on foreign social media, including Instagram and YouTube, which they use to market the country’s military equipment and organise sales in contravention of sanctions.