Kim Heung-kwang had earned membership in the all-powerful Communist Party through years of work helping to create North Korea’s own computers, including the Paektusan minicomputer, named for the mountain where Kim Jong-il was said to have been born. As a computer science professor at Hamhung University, he had even taught students who would go on to work for North Korea’s cyberwarfare brigade, Unit 121—the group suspected of the Sony breach—in the basics of networking and operation systems.
After black markets began to spread, Kim was reassigned in 2000 to a military division that went door-to-door to search for contraband media. “I loved it,” he says. “I had the power to go into homes and take these materials and no one could even question me.”
One of the perks of Kim’s position, of course, was nearly infinite access to the media he confiscated. He began to watch the contraband films and TV shows and even loaned out his collection to friends, who rewarded him with gifts like alcohol and meat.
In 2002, Kim was given a PC, part of what he describes as a secret aid shipment from South Korea. Its hard drive had been wiped. But using forensic recovery software, Kim was able to reassemble its deleted contents. They included 400 files: films, TV shows, and, most important to his intellectual sensibilities, ebooks.
“You can’t imagine how excited I was,” he says. “I had hit a gold mine.” Read more