#North Korea’s public relations man….

North Korea’s public relations man is a Spaniard with a tough job

Meet Alejandro Cao de Benós, the only non-Korean employee of North Korea’s foreign ministry. The Spaniard is taking the PR message of North Korea’s greatness across Europe.

(From The Christian Science Monitor)

NK PR Guy

The representative from North Korea’s Foreign Ministry describes a country devoid of hunger, poverty, and political repression. Every citizen receives their housing, salary, and plentiful sacks of rice directly from the government, he says, pointing to photos of smiling children and sharply-dressed adults – ice skating, on smartphones, and enjoying rides at amusement parks as proof of prosperity.

In North Korea people wouldn’t ever want to leave the country, he says, even if they could.

I particularly like the “even if they could” part!  I wonder how much of a hypocrite he knows he is.  Given the fact that anyone leaving their town will be killed and any family members that are left behind are killed as well to make examples of such acts.

Before serving as spokesperson to North Korea he worked as an IT consultant in Pamplona and in the US.

Oh how I want to make an obvious connection between North Korea’s cyber-warfare tactics and this guys expertise but without knowing more details of what he did with such a broad term of employment, it’s purely a guess that he has helped North Korea (well, at least parts of it) come into the technical world.

 

#North Korea Under Cyber Attack!

It seems that the meager Internet resources from the ‘noisy boys up North’ have been crippled by 2 days of continous attacks.

North Korea accuses U.S. of cyber attacks on its Internet servers

(Edit: of course they do!  Not saying they are wrong but this is kinda stating the obvious)

Given how little they use the Internet, is this really going to make much a difference?  I mean seriously, this would be like someone staging continuous drain on buying up all the CB radios.  No one really cares and in the long run, it really doesn’t affect much as far as infrastructure goes.  This will just piss them off, and give them more reason to do something stupid because that’s the only way this little standoff will even go anywhere.

North Korean students attend a rally held to show their willingness to enlist in the army March 14, 2013 in this picture released by the North’s official KCNA news agency in Pyongyang March 15, 2013.

REUTERS

SEOUL

North Korea accuses U.S. of cyber attacks on its Internet servers

JACK KIM

Published Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 07:58AM EDT

Last updated Friday, Mar. 15, 2013 08:00AM EDT

North Korea, usually blamed for hacking others, has accused the United States of staging cyber attacks against its Internet servers after reports of disruptions to its main news services, the latest twist from an increasingly bellicose North.

Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency said a “powerful hacker attack” from abroad had brought down Internet servers inside the North, disabling access to some websites.

The accusation comes at a time of increased tension between reclusive North Korea and South Korea, along with the South’s ally the United States.

The North has threatened a nuclear war with the United States in response to new United Nations sanctions over its latest nuclear test and to strike back at the South and the United States during military drills they are staging.

South Korea’s MBC television said the North’s state media services were among those affected by the cyber attack.

These included the websites of the KCNA news agency and the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which were said to be experiencing disruptions even though they were operating normally on Thursday and Friday.

“It is nobody’s secret that the U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the DPRK,” KCNA said on Friday.

“Intensive and persistent virus attacks are being made every day on Internet servers operated by the DPRK,” it said.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, is the North’s official name.

KCNA and Rodong Sinmun have carried the North’s increasingly strident rhetoric of late, accusing the United States and South Korea of staging preparations for war and vowing to scrap the armistice that stopped fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

The North has also threatened to use nuclear weapons against what it called hostile forces.

North Korea in turn has been blamed for spreading malicious software that crashed the websites of government agencies and businesses, and for a cyber attack on a South Korean state-run bank server in 2011 that took more than a week to restore.

North Korea denies charges of cyber attacks and accuses the South of a conspiracy to fuel confrontation, although defectors from the North have warned that Pyongyang was recruiting thousands of computer engineers to its cyber warfare unit.

Military experts said cyber warfare was a major threat from North Korea, along with its conventional forces and its weapons of mass destruction program, that posed a security risk to utilities and communications networks in the South.

North Korea also has been accused of jamming global positioning system signals affecting hundreds of flights at South Korea’s main airport.

Earlier this week, U.S. spy agencies said for the first time that cyber attacks and cyber espionage had supplanted terrorism as the top security threat facing the United States.

The United States and China also are embroiled in a row over cyber warfare, with U.S. President Barack Obama calling his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to discuss the issue this week.

© 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Nulcear North Korea

So, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test apparently.  Another ho-hum day in Seoul for everyone else.

In the absence of any real leverage, Washington and its allies are left warning Beijing that if it does not keep North Korea out of the nuclear club, it risks an arms race in its own neighborhood.

This is from the New York Times article.

I am slightly divided over the right of North Korea to do what it wants so long as they are not harming anyone.  In this case, I refer to people outside of their country.  So far, they have done no wrong to another country(skirmishes aside).

Let me tell you how this game is payed. Earlier this week a “war of words” began.

“The US and enemies, based on their own hypothesis and arguments, jumped to the conclusion that we would stage a third nuclear test,” said the editorial.

– source rt.com

Note that this seeming denial statement merely points to someone else guessing what North Korea was about to do. They did not say they weren’t going to do it.

Besides that little tidbit, the South Korean military had their own statement.

“If [the North] shows a clear intent to use a nuclear weapon, it is better to get rid of it and go to war, rather than being attacked,” said the general, addressing the Joint Chiefs. He added that ”a pre-emptive attack against the North trying to use nuclear weapons does not require consultation with the United States and it is the right of self-defense.”

So….what? Everyone is posturing in the name of “self defense” but really just use that as some sort of excuse to throw around their ego? On one hand, I can appreciate the fact that North Korea wants too stay out of US control and financial ruin. On the other hand, of the people are truly suffering, the whole world has a responsibility to ensure that its inhabitants have the means to survive, if not thrive. Sadly, I feel that our current efforts are misguided and will eventually fail. Perhaps it is time for a change huh?

Ok, back to the topic at hand. Not much has changed. There have been no pre-emptive strikes. Although do you need to detonate a nuclear device to research energy for your country? No, but hey, what do I know?

Next I expect to read that China is finally taking a few stern measures against the little upstart country or that the US “suddenly discovers a reason to invade” and then things will be ugly for awhile. Maybe you’ll see a re-enactment of the middle East, maybe not. In either case, I’m glad I am moving further south to get some distance from this crap.

North Korea is always in the News

Ok, I’ll do my best to make sure this is the last North Korea topic for a while but in reality, you never know what those crazy buggers up North will do.

So let’s review some things and see if you can pick out the crazy things I see happening.

North Korea Launches rocket (See history up till March of last year here)….it explodes shortly after take-off.  My intuition screams sabotage but I have zero proof of that.

North Korea launches second rocket…it works fine.  Reports of it ‘tumbling wildly through space’ or it will only be ‘able to take nothing but grainy pictures’ but nothing confirming either contradictory statements.  Who really knows what it’s doing.

North Korea publicly proclaims the detaining of an US citizen for ‘unspecified crimes’.  The timing is just a little too close to the previous event.  I suspect that in order to prevent sabotage, North Korea used the ‘hostage’…err….detained citizen to guarantee that the rockets gets off the ground but again, this is just my intuition.

Google & a former US politician visit North Korea.  One to talk about the detained citizen, the other to talk about…..well, not really clear on that.  One would presume business and technology but given the highly restrictive nature, and Google’s habit of betting on the future, it could only be to make sure that Google gets their corporate foot-in-the-door before anyone else.

Google then allows people to see a bit more inside the ‘hermit kingdom’ by updating Google Maps images of North Korea.

So, what will be the next move?  North Korea proclaiming ‘space superiority’ by show-casing some ‘liberated’ shots of the earth from its satellite?  There are already tons of reports about their readiness for a nuclear test.  Wonder if the UN will simply put forth yet another ‘resolution’ against North Korea, which doesn’t seem to be doing much except costing a lot of money for paperwork.

North Korean hackers

“(5th LD) Transition team retracts announcement on N. Korea’s suspected hacking attempts | YONHAP NEWS”
http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2013/01/17/56/0301000000AEN20130117011200315F.HTML.

It is near comical to see this kind of news. Not the first time that North Korea has been implicated in hacking attempts but I am highly amused at the back-peddling the South Korea is now doing. “misunderstanding” is like the new politically correct word for “don’t upset North Korea”. I have no doubt in my mind, that North Korea had done having, why wouldn’t they? They are still at war with South Korea as no peace treaty has ever been signed.

” The official asked reporters to run antivirus programs and change passwords more often.”

This is laughable advice at best.  Having been in the IT industry for over 10 years and passwords and seeing the vast majority of people who have so many problems with passwords, this advice is doomed before it is heard. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that the main way for North Korea to get “in” is through the media.

For a few months i had set up a file server so i coupe get at any of my files while i was out of the house. I saw a nearly endless, daily attempted break-ins from chinese ip addresses. Heck, they even once cracked myth mobile provider and all my Google passwords were being routed through a Chinese server. Luckily that was the same day i decided to enable 2-step verification worth Google. For the next 4 days i was very annoyed that i kept having to enter a pin number and thought that this 2-step security thing was a pain in the ass. That was until I put the two incidents together and realized that was Google saving my butt from Chinese hackers!

It just stands to reason that North Korea would do exactly that. Hell, they could entirely be the ones behind that last hack i just mentioned.

Korean Immigration and Ageing population

The Financial Times has an interesting article which echoes another one I read last year about a ‘perceived’ problem.  That being in order to keep up with the country’s production, they need to allow more immigrants because the birthrate is one of the lowest in the world right now.  So as more ages, less are available to replace, thus the country’s output will be slowed.  Here is the article (so you don’t have to register for the FT.  If you ever do, may I suggest using 10 Minute Email to do so.)

January 14, 2013 9:54 am

Head of BoK urges Korean immigration reform

By Simon Mundy in Seoul

The head of South Korea’s central bank has called on the incoming government to loosen restrictions on immigration to ease a looming labour shortage in one of the world’s most rapidly ageing societies.

“I believe it would be appropriate for us to embrace migrant workers with future-oriented and open immigration policies,” Kim Choong-soo, governor of the Bank of Korea, told a press conference on Monday, making an unusual intervention into a politically controversial subject.

“We’d be able to utilise these workers coming from outside in the right parts of the economy, and regain societal vitality at the same time.”

Mr Kim’s comments come as South Korean leaders are trying to find ways to prevent the country’s low birth rate from stalling its economic rise.

Ethnic minorities account for just over 60,000 of South Korea’s 50m citizens, and the first non-ethnically Korean lawmaker, Philippines-born Jasmine Lee, was elected only last year.

Mr Kim said that South Korea should follow the example of the US, which accepts more than 1m migrant workers each year, or risk draining momentum from the economy.

South Korea’s strict immigration laws have exacerbated the effect of one of the world’s lowest birth rates – an average of about 1.2 children per woman – caused in part by the high cost of childcare and after-school tuition, seen as essential by most parents.

If the current trend continues, the ratio of workers to retired people will fall from 4.5 to 1.2 by 2050, estimates the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Park Geun-hye, who will be sworn in South Korea’s first female president on February 25, has promised to expand state childcare provision and slash university tuition fees: both moves that could boost birth rates by lowering the cost of child rearing. But she has not spelt out detailed plans on migration rules.

Immigration to South Korea has gradually crept up over most of the past two decades, driven mainly by ethnic Koreans returning from China or the US, foreign marriages and poor migrants from southeast Asia seeking unskilled work. But it has stalled recently, with the number of migrant workers falling by 9 per cent in the year to last November.

Restrictions on most of those migrants remain strict, and many, especially from non-Korean backgrounds, find it difficult to integrate into a conservative society.

In most cases, foreign workers are not allowed to migrate with their families or apply for South Korean citizenship, and must leave the country within five years of arrival.

South Korea’s ageing society means it should reform policy to increase the number of foreign workers to 4m by 2030, compared with about 540,000 today, said Chung Ki-seon, senior researcher at the IOM Migration Research and Training Centre.

But large-scale immigration reform could prove controversial, she added. “Some Koreans don’t like the idea of a multi-ethnic society . . . Even though the government recognises the necessity for more immigrants, our immigration policy is in many ways very closed.”

A further challenge is attracting skilled workers – currently accounting for less than a tenth of the migrant labour force – who can add value to an increasingly advanced economy. The government could consider using the foreign aid budget to fund the education of children in poor countries, who could then be encouraged to move to South Korea, Ms Chung said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.

There is definitely a conundrum here with immigration.  The government will have to eventually decide on whether the lingering resentment of a ‘foreign invasion’ outweighs the benefits South Korea’s ability to keep up with production.  Eventually I see this as being the only way for them not to ‘loose face‘ by allowing their growth to halt/reverse.  Sadly, this is both a wrong perspective, growth always stops at some point and continues later, but also there will be many, many more news articles slamming this idea and much more slanted reports of foreigners causing trouble.  Oh the Anti-English Spectrum will have a field day with this!

Google & North Korea

This post crosses a few interests of mine.  Namely, Google, North Korea, Conspiracy Theory-made-manifest.

If you weren’t aware, Google’s Eric Schmidt (and ex-New Mexico Governor) Bill Richardson flew to North Korea.

google-north-korea
Schmidt & Richardson watching a North Korean using the Internet. Photo courtesy of WSJ.

Word has it that the Richardson is pressing for the release of Pae Jun Ho, an US Citizen, for “Unspecified Crimes“.

What should concern people is that right now, tensions are a little high after the missile launch and the threat of a nuclear test being performed we don’t have an official GOVERNMENT visit to work things out (although, given the history of such and the following obvious failures…) we have CORPORATE interests gallivanting about the world, making ‘nice, nice’ with ugly neighbours.  Seriously, this smacks of the whole shift from a Democratic rulership to a Corporatocracy.  It’s not like we weren’t warned about this, publicly, in the 70’s.

This movie is one of my favourites and this scene is nearly as famous as the “Mad as Hell” scene.

So, back to my current northern neighbours.  What do you think the outcome will be?  Will Google be allowed inside the ‘hermit kingdom’?  That place where the Internet is so tightly controlled that only a select few are allowed to use it?  Somehow I doubt that will change anytime soon, given how tightly controlled the state media is.  Or should I say manipulated?  Were you aware that North Korea WON the World Cup in 2010?! (Despite Spain actually winning it seems.)

So what to the South Koreans think of the North Koreans?  Oddly not much.  There is a well know pattern that North Korea hypes up some event, threatens ‘Seoul’ with retaliation and then….fails to follow through. North Korea is like the boy who cried wolf all the time.  Sure some ‘spikes’ of interest show up (Kim Jong Il dying, Rocket launch) that get people to talk a little bit, otherwise North Korea is fairly well ignored by the southern populace.

I have met some Koreans whose families originate from North Korea (English teachers from South Africa actually) and they don’t seem any different from any other regular Korean really.  So it’s back to the big, egotistical Military types running the place and making big chest-pounding displays of strength while the rest of the people go ‘meh’.