South Korea to Track and Freeze Digital Assets in the North

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The Government of South Korea is reportedly preparing to introduce legislation to track and freeze North Korean cryptocurrencies and virtual assets. This initiative comes after a period of intense scrutiny and revision, reflecting President Yoon Suk Yeol’s commitment to bolstering national security through practical measures. 

The revised bill, forged through 10 months of inter-ministerial consultations, promises to fortify South Korea’s existing sanctions against North Korea and create a more secure regional environment.

The Crypto Dilemma

Cryptocurrencies have become a popular choice for illicit activities due to their decentralized nature, which makes tracking transactions challenging. North Korea, notorious for its cyber-infiltration activities, has increasingly turned to crypto to avoid international sanctions and fund its weapons programs. South Korea, as a key crypto trading hub, acknowledges the critical need to address this issue.

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The Initial Proposal

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) first announced the bill in November, signaling a commitment to curbing North Korea’s financial maneuverings. However, President Yoon Suk Yeol saw the need for further refinement. 

He urged the bill to include “practical measures to bolster national security,” according to anonymous administration insiders who spoke to the JoongAng Daily. This delay served as a testament to the South Korean government’s commitment to creating a well-thought-out and effective piece of legislation.

The revised bill, which is set to be submitted, reflects President Yoon’s conviction that South Korea’s cybersecurity infrastructure requires urgent repair. It contains provisions to track and neutralize virtual coins and other crypto assets stolen by North Korea through hacking, an aspect not covered in the original proposal put forward by the NIS last year.

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North Korea’s Persistent Cyber Threat

In 2022 alone, blockchain analytical firm Chainalysis reported that North Korea pilfered a staggering 1.7 trillion Won (approximately $1.28 billion) worth of Bitcoin and Ethereum through various hacking outfits.

Among the numerous hacking organizations attributed to North Korea, the Lazarus Group stands out as one of the most notorious and prolific actors in the realm of crypto-related hacks. This shadowy group has been linked to a plethora of cybercrimes and the theft of cryptocurrencies from various exchanges and financial institutions.

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