Earlier last week, Korea celebrated one of its biggest holidays of the year, Chuseok, a harvest holiday equivalent to American Thanksgiving. Neighboring country North Korea, on the other hand, has been busy with other things. While the totalitarian nation does celebrate Chuseok, recent media attention has largely been placed on inter-Korean summits, the Trump-Kim relations, and most notably, the country’s increasing use of cryptocurrencies.
As one, if not the most isolated country in the world, North Korea has been making headlines in the cryptosphere after several hacks and attempts of mining and money laundering. While the general population has little to no knowledge of crypto and the country suffers from low levels of internet penetration, with only 1,024 reported IP addresses (compared to South Korea’s astounding 112.3 million), the government is actively pursuing ventures into blockchain and cryptocurrency.
These recent actions stem from a larger geopolitical context. As one of the poorest countries in the world with increasing international sanctions cutting revenue stream, North Korea seems to be looking for further sources of income to propel itself up. And the answer apparently lies in crypto. Allegedly blamed for the July 2017 Bithumb attack and the December 2017 YouBit hack, North Korea has been illicitly obtaining crypto and then selling them on various international accounts, wallets and exchanges to convert the digital assets into fiat, effectively erasing its traces and avoiding sanctions in the process.
As Cointelegraph rightfully describes, “Just as individuals in developed nations sometimes use crypto to circumvent national laws, isolated outlaw states such as North Korea use it to circumvent international laws.” How long will these unregulated exchanges help North Korea?
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