Hackers have released personal details of nearly 1,000 North Korean defectors living in the South, according to officials. Ever since the partition after World War II, whether for religious, ideological or personal reasons, many North Korean citizens have defected to the South over the years. According to officials, leakage of such data could expose them to potentials threats from the North.
This is the first time that personal details including names and addresses of North Korean defectors have been stolen on such a large scale, the Unification Ministry said.
Thought the hacker's identity is unknown, a state-run centre at North Gyeongsang Province that helps the defectors settle in South Korea is said to have run a 'malicious code' in one of its systems.
There are 25 such centres across the country which provide support for the roughly 30,000 North Korean defectors who live in the country.
After confirming the hack last week, authorities conducted an emergency inspection of all computers at Hana Centres but no other leaks were found.
"We apologise to defectors from the North. We will make utmost efforts to protect their personal information and prevent any recurrence of such an incident", the ministry said in a statement. The government said that no computers at other Hana centres across the country had been hacked. It also has not voiced the hand of any North Korean agency in the hack.
North Korea's state media have threatened to silence defectors who actively engage in anti-Pyongyang activities such as launching leaflets to the North by balloons.
Yi Han-yong, a nephew of Song Hye Rim — the first wife of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il — was shot to death outside his house in Bundang, south of Seoul, in 1997.
His assassination by two attackers, who were never caught, followed the publication of his tell-all book about the private life of the Kims.