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Cyberwarfare in the Korean Peninsula: Asymmetries and Strategic Responses

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In this paper, we argue that the two Koreas’ intentions and actions on the cyber front point toward the possibility that they have engaged in cyber warfare against each other. From South Korea’s standpoint, a key concern has been North Korea’s advanced cyber warfare capabilities and alleged involvement of its substantial workforce in the Internet’s dark side activities. These issues need to be looked at the backdrop of the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. This paper draws principally upon theories and concepts from military strategy and warfare to examine the contexts, mechanisms, and processes associated with the cyber warfare in the Korean peninsula. We also compare the two Koreas in terms of various forms of asymmetries in cyber warfare and cyber attacks. Also highlighted in the paper are South Korea’s recent initiatives and actions to enhance cyber-offense and cyber-defense capabilities.

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  1. According to a defector from the Electronic Warfare Unit of the KPA, over 30,000 people in KPA may be engaged in cyber attacks against foreign targets (Yoon, 2011).

  2. The first department focuses on gathering foreign intelligence and anti-communist, anti-terror, and anti-espionage efforts remain within the second department’s purview.


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Two anonymous East Asia reviewers’ comments on an earlier version helped to improve the paper substantially.

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Correspondence to Nir Kshetri.

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Kshetri, N. Cyberwarfare in the Korean Peninsula: Asymmetries and Strategic Responses. East Asia 31, 183–201 (2014).

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