Over the past year, North Korea allegedly hoarded over $200 million worth of cryptocurrencies, effectively alleviating the repercussions of the various economic and political sanctions from some of the largest global superpowers in the world.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Priscilla Moriuchi, a former US National Security Agency officer, reported that at least 11,000 Bitcoins were accrued by Kim Jong Un’s regime. Moriuchi, who now works for Recorded Future, a cyber threat intelligence firm, posits that North Korea must have acquired the cryptocurrencies via hacking or mining.
To put things into perspective, if Kim Jong Un has decided to sell off his nation’s stash of Bitcoins when it was at its peak back in December – a whopping $19,800 apiece – the sale would’ve yielded over $210 million. Due to the recent market crash, however, their stash is currently worth slightly over $121 million.
According to experts in the global financial analytics field, North Korea is utilizing their gains in the cryptocurrency markets to fund their nation’s economy, which has been struggling under the weight of multiple international sanctions.
In another interview with Vox.com, Moruichi stated what she believed North Korea was doing with the stolen Bitcoins.
“I would bet that these coins are being turned into something – currency or physical goods – that are supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme.”
The East Asian nation, which is infamous for being under the Kim family’s ruthless and relentless dictatorship, has a history of organizing some of the largest cybercrimes in the world. Last December, it was confirmed that they were behind the May’s Wannacry ransomware attack, which affected over 230,000 computers in more than 150 countries.
North Korea was also blamed for robbing the Bank of Bangladesh back in 2015, where it distributed its loot to offshore banks in the Philippines.
Evidence gathered by Moruichi’s new firm, Recorded Future, North Korean hackers were suspected to be operating out of several countries like China and India.
Furthermore, this is not the first time that North Korea has organized a large-scale hack in order to gather Bitcoins. Back in December, hackers from North Korea targeted a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange, Youbit, stealing at least $7 million worth of digital money and forcing them to declare bankruptcy.
Despite all the evidence, Pyongyang continues to deny all hacking accusations, insisting that the Bitcoins were obtained via legal mining operations scattered around the country.