Mecca for North Korean Hackers

Shenyang, China — Moranbong University, which is directly managed by the Operations Department of the Workers’ Party, is said to be leading technical developments in cyber war against foreign countries.

A North Korean source said in a telephone interview with Daily NK on the 10th, “I heard that the U.S. and South Korea were attacked. If it were confirmed that North Korea was responsible, it would have been by the graduates of Moranbong University.”

According to the source, since the mid-1990s, the Workers’ Party has been watching the worldwide trend whereby the IT field started dominating, and founded Moranbong University in 1997 in order to train experts in data-processing, code-breaking, hacking and other high-tech skills. The results of new student selections, curricula and training are reported only to the Director of the Operations Department, Oh Keuk Ryul.

The foundation of the University was spurred by the North Korean invasion of the South in Kangreung, Kangwon Province in 1996. 26 North Korean special agents tried to infiltrate South Korea after passing under the Northern Limit Line in a special, mini-submarine, but they were all killed or committed suicide after the operation failed. After that, there was a debate within the South Korean Liaison Office under the Operations Department of the Party about the sending of spies to the South and collecting intelligence through contact with resident spies in South Korean society. After listening to such suggestions, Kim Jong Il approved the establishment of the university.

It is a five-year university which selects 30 freshmen every year. The university makes every freshman a military first lieutenant. In sophomore year, students take courses in martial arts, shooting and other special skills, and then they take courses in assembly languages, wiretapping, code-breaking, and hacking.

Graduates are dispatched to the headquarters of the Operations Department of the Party or local South Korea Liaison Offices, where they are put in charge of collecting intelligence from intelligence organizations and the military of South Korea, the U.S., Japan, China and other neighboring countries, or demolishing programs.

Since 2003, more than 200 graduates from the University have started working for the Operations Department or as professors of Moranbong University. Some of them have been dispatched to China in order to train in international techniques or to earn foreign currency as Chosun Computer Center (KCC) workers.

According to the source, Moranbong Univeristy is better than Mirim University, the former main educational institution for North Korean hackers, in terms of equipment, technology and curricula. It is located in Jung-district, just across from the No. 3 Government Building, in which the United Front Department, the Liaison Department and the Operation Department are stationed. The real purpose of the university is not officially revealed even to general agents of the Operations Department, because it is treated as top secret.

The source concluded, “Wiretapping has its limits because of a lack of equipment, but they have world-class hacking technology.”