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North Korean Hackers Stole U.S.-South Korean War Plans, Lawmaker Says

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In an undated handout photo, a bomb hits a mock target at the Pilseung Firing Range in Gangwon-do, South Korea. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, North Korea sent an intermediate-range ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, into a spot in the Western Pacific almost 1,700 miles away, which may have been a more realistic test of the type of missile the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un had threatened to use to strike near the American territory of Guam. - SOUTH KOREAN DEFENSE MINISTRY VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES
  • South Korean Defense Ministry via The New York Times
  • In an undated handout photo, a bomb hits a mock target at the Pilseung Firing Range in Gangwon-do, South Korea. On Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, North Korea sent an intermediate-range ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido, into a spot in the Western Pacific almost 1,700 miles away, which may have been a more realistic test of the type of missile the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un had threatened to use to strike near the American territory of Guam.

By CHOE SANG-HUN
© 2017 New York Times News Service

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean hackers stole a vast cache of data, including classified wartime contingency plans jointly drawn by Washington and Seoul, when they breached the computer network of the South Korean military last year, a South Korean lawmaker said Tuesday.

One of the contingency plans contained the South Korean military’s plan to remove the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, referred to as the “decapitation” plan, should war break out on the Korean Peninsula, the lawmaker, Rhee Cheol-hee, told reporters.

Rhee, a member of the governing Democratic Party who serves on the defense committee of the National Assembly, said he only recently learned of the scale of the North Korean hacking attack, which was first discovered in September last year.

It was not known whether any of the military’s top secrets were leaked, although Rhee said that nearly 300 lower-classification confidential documents were stolen. The military is still unable to catalog nearly 80 percent of the leaked data, he said.

When the hacking attack was found out last year, the Defense Ministry blamed North Korea. But it has acknowledged only that “some classified information” was stolen, saying that revealing more details would only benefit its enemies.

Some South Korean news media, citing anonymous sources, had earlier reported that the leaked data included wartime contingency plans. But Rhee is the first member of the parliamentary committee that oversees the military to disclose similar details.

It remained unclear how much the hacking has undermined the joint preparedness of the South Korean and U.S. militaries, with South Korean officials simply saying that they have been redressing whatever damage was caused by the cyberattack.

As Kim, the North Korean leader, has accelerated his nuclear missile program in recent years, South Korean defense officials have publicly discussed pre-emptive strikes at critical missile and nuclear sites in North Korea and a decapitation operation.

North Korea runs an army of hackers trained to disrupt enemy computer networks and steal cash and sensitive data. In the past decade, it has been blamed for numerous cyberheists and other hacking attacks in South Korea and elsewhere.