back to article North Korea using freelance techies to fund missiles and nukes

North Korean IT pros are using freelancing platforms to earn money that the nation's authoritarian government uses to fund the development of missiles and nuclear weapons, according to South Korea's government. Seoul therefore wants gig platforms to impose stricter checks to restrict its enemy's activities. South Korea's …

  1. Aleph0

    So, many DPRK coders work in DeFi

    That explains a lot IMO, I wonder how many of the past blunders at crypto-bean exchanges were deliberate... "Sorry, there was a bug in a 'smart' contract of ours, all our customers' funds have been squirreled away" is an excuse I got tired of reading.

    Web3: you might as well wire your money directly to Kim Jong Un.

  2. The Mole

    I'm not sure what the point of them avoiding or firms insisting on video calls actually is? All they need to do is fake a Korean/appropriate Asian identity and fake the id documents to match, then just do the interview. Or alternatively as they said just get a go between to do the initial interviews/id checks and then do the work.

    More effective is surely to trace the money. Presumably these people are being paid in currency into a bank account (if it is crypto then there's your first problem). Surely checks must be in place to make sure the account name matches the freelancers name. Banks are much better placed to verify id documents and make sure fake accounts aren't being created. Of course it still doesn't help again mules but finding, paying and trusting them surely reduces the effectiveness.

  3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    An interesting attitude to raising taxes

    North Korea has a history of raising revenue in odd ways. Back in the day there were convincing reports that up a third of the world's fake Viagra was being manufactured in North Korea. I presume it's much cheaper now, so there are generics that people can get hold of instead and less money for Nork nukes.

    North Korean embassies are also expected to be self-funded. I don't know if they also have to send cash back to the government, but they have to raise enough money in-country to pay their salaries as well as whatever spying (and sometimes even diplomacy) they have to do for their day jobs.

    There was a story a few years ago that they'd managed to attract some Russian rocket scientists - who were involved in Russia's solid fuel ICBMs. If I remember right they were supposedly from the submarine missile program. Which would make their missile program a lot more dangerous - given solid rockets are a lot easier to deploy and launch. Assuming they hadn't been sent by Putin, even for him I'd have thought helping North Korea to better nuclear tech was a bit to chaotic - so I'm guessing people like that are going to want lots of un-traceable hard currency.

  4. _olli

    Given that North Korea is one of the most isolated and backward countries, where free thought is verboten, access to Internet very limited, access to university education very limited and curriculums are all about studying juche ideology, this picture that paints such country as source of masses of skilled IT workers is just not credible.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Oops, someone's missed how they've been focusing on technology as a weapon for over a decade, how two of their top universities are almost entirely technology-focused, how they have acted when they want certain skills (you wouldn't think such an education system would produce people capable of making a nuclear arsenal either, because you forgot that they study physics there as well), and how, a few years ago when they were trying to look more open, there were companies explicitly outsourcing technical work to North Korean companies.

      Your summary is accurate for a lot of people, because they don't focus on giving good educations to people they won't trust and they have a large list of people who are to be denied trust, but when someone is found in the trusted group who demonstrates skill with computers, which they have imported and set up in many schools, that person gets doomed to a life of technology-themed slavery instead of the farming or construction-themed slavery a lot of others find themselves in. The country doesn't have millions of skilled IT people, but thousands of people skilled enough to pass an interview and start collecting paychecks, some of whom are actually capable of doing the job, that they have.

    2. Dabooka

      Swing and a miss....

      NK have a long history of thinking outside the box to be ahead of the curve.

      Wait, does that make sense?!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It would have been great to see some pictures of the dodgy IDs. Or maybe some specific examples.... or even some, y'know, what journalists would call evidence.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like