Silicon Valley to host North Korea hackathon

A two-day “hackathon” plans to harness the technical prowess of Silicon Valley to come up with new ways to get information safely into North Korea. Hack North Korea, scheduled to take place in San Francisco on August 2-3, is organized by the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based group that focuses on closed societies.

Several prominent North Korean defectors will attend the event including pro-democracy activist Park Sang-hak, former North Korean child prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, media personality Park Yeon-mi and Kim Heung-Kwang, a former professor in computer studies in North Korea. They are expected to speak on the methods currently used to get information into the country, which include CDs and DVDs, USB sticks, shortwave radio, and leaflets dropped from balloons.

Organisers said they are not encouraging hacking in the sense of gaining unauthorised access to data, but is instead hoping to “spark better ideas for getting information into the world’s most closed and isolated society”. Participants will become familiar with the various ways that information and truth are smuggled into North Korea today, and gain an understanding of the technology landscape inside the country.

Earlier this year, helped HRF to launch balloons carrying USB flash drives loaded with Korean-language Wikipedia as well as pro-democracy materials and DVDs with South Korean dramas, so that they could float from the launch site in Paju, in South Korea, across the border into the North.

Park Sang-hak also visited Silicon Valley with HRF, to improve GPS tracking on the balloons, so that the group can try and follow what happens to the balloons once they cross the border.

[The Guardian]

Tools of the trade of North Korean assassins

Investigators in Seoul have revealed some of the gadgets they claim are used by their bitter rivals from North Korea to assassinate political enemies in the South. The murderous catalogue of secret weapons reads like something from James Bond’s collection. The first weapon looks like an innocuous electric torch, except it is able to fire three bullets. The second is a ballpoint pen with a poisoned needle. The third is another “poison pen”, containing a bullet that both punctures the skin and releases a deadly toxin.

The weapons were found on a failed Pyongyang assassin last year, whose target was Park Sang-hak, an activist who has angered Pyongyang by sending helium-filled balloons containing propaganda leaflets into North Korea.

Pyongyang sent a former commando, known as “Ahn” and disguised as a defector, to Seoul to kill Mr Park. He pretended to be keen to join Mr Park’s activist movement, but was foiled by intelligence services and jailed for four years in April. Ahn had been in South Korea for 17 years before the assassination attempt, having worked with numerous groups opposing the government in North Korea.

In 2010, two North Korean army officers tried to assassinate activist Hwang Jang-yop, a former official from North Korea who defected to South Korea, which seriously angered the late leader of the North, Kim Jong-il. Mr Hwang subsequently died of a heart attack, although there are question marks over what might have caused it.

Similar activities previously included:

On 21 January, 1968, a group of 31 North Korean commandos infiltrated the Blue House, the official residence of the president of South Korea, Park Chung-hee, to “slit his throat” as the only commando captured alive described his mission.

In 1974 the mother of South Korea’s current presidential election candidate, Park Geun-hye, was killed by North Korean assassins, who tried for a second time to kill her father, then President, as he delivered a speech.

In 1983, North Korean assassins struck again, this time in Burma, when they exploded a bomb during a ceremony. President Chun Doo-hwan, who was on an official visit to Rangoon, escaped but 21 people were killed.

Source: The Independent