High-end cyber unites, attacks on Sony, threats with nuclear weapons. North-Korea has not been short of themes for Hollywood new movies, but Pyongyang watcher Paul French doubts whether Kim Jong-un likes recent movie releases, he writes for Reuters.
It seems Kim Jong-un doesn’t like the new Seth Rogan movie, The Interview. Not surprising really, it’s a comedy about a fictitious plot to assassinate him. Now Sony Pictures has been the subject of a massive cyber-attack disrupting the company’s communications system and leaking upcoming movies – no more rogue DPRK nukes to keep us awake at night, but rather illicit downloads of a new version of Annie!
North Korea has, unsurprisingly, been accused of mounting the attack and, equally unsurprisingly, denies it. But they may be on shaky ground. Last summer, when the movie’s plot was first announced, Pyongyang immediately responded, called on the U.S. government to ban the film and threatening a “merciless and resolute” response. In what may be a first for the United Nations, the secretary general was personally informed, by the DPRK’s ambassador, that a rom-com was an ‘act of war.’ The UN has declined to get involved in debating mild comedy…
So they don’t like The Interview at all, they don’t like Seth Rogen much, and it won’t be playing at the regional multiplexes in Manpo, Hamhung or Wonsan because no American films will be playing in these towns and there are no multiplexes anyway. But do they hate it enough to cyber-attack Sony Pictures?
Pyongyang says no, but there’s a lot of reasons to think yes. North Korea certainly has substantial cyber-warfare resources developed both in-house and, probably, with the help of the Chinese military and helpful hackers. As South Korea’s technical capabilities, brands and software engineering have become world class, so the North has had to try and keep up. While this has not meant a computer in every home (or even more than a handful in every town), a broadband nation or any North Korea conglomerate the equivalent of an LG or a Samsung, it has meant a highly developed military cyber-attack unit. The North is constantly prepared for war with the South and rendering Seoul electronically “dark” is a vital component of this. Additionally, cyber warfare suits the economically distraught DPRK – hi-tech cyber warriors with laptops don’t need masses of gasoline the way tanks, warships and fighter jets annoyingly do. That Sony is the American entertainment subsidiary of the Japanese parent may well have encouraged any decision to do a little cyber mischief making – Pyongyang remains in a state of insult slinging and perpetual tension with Tokyo. An American company with a Japanese parent embarrassed and rendered impotent electronically – a double whammy for the North.
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