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'N. Korea turns to cryptocurrency,' says U.S. official

Posted May. 15, 2019 07:37,   

Updated May. 15, 2019 07:37


“Some countries and rogue actors (are) trying to turn to digital currencies to offset the impact of economic sanctions,” said U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker.

Voice of America reported that Under Secretary Mandelker joined an annual meeting hosted by CoinDesk, a news site specializing in digital currencies, in New York on Monday. “Time and again, as regimes and bad actors are cut off from the global financial system, they search for alternatives (in digital currencies),” she said at the event. The Under Secretary cited the case of Park Jin-hyok, a North Korea hacker indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for financial frauds in September last year, as an example.

According to the Department of Justice, Park is a member of a North Korea-sponsored hacking team known as the Lazarus Group that used spear-phishing techniques with Bank of Bangladesh employees to gain access to the bank’s network. Then, the hacking group stole 81 million dollars by quickly transferring funds from the bank using a digital currency trading system.

“In recent years, economic sanctions have emerged as one of the top tools in our national security arsenal without putting boots on the ground or troops in harm’s way,” Mandelker explained. “In this Administration, Treasury has brought unprecedented economic pressure on Iran, North Korea, and Russia, among many others.”

Taek Kyoon Sohn sohn@donga.com