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North Korea defector says phone was hacked

Defector Thae Yong-ho was the target of a cyber breach, a South Korean security firm confirmed Monday. File Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE
Defector Thae Yong-ho was the target of a cyber breach, a South Korean security firm confirmed Monday. File Photo by Jeon Heon-Kyun/EPA-EFE

Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A North Korean defector who is running for a parliamentary seat in the South says his phone was hacked, possibly by North Koreans.

Thae Yong-ho, a former Pyongyang diplomat who fled the North Korean Embassy in London in 2016, said Monday a group affiliated with the Kim Jong Un regime gained illicit access to his smartphone, Yonhap reported.

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"As evident from this hacking incident, my life in South Korea in the past few years has ultimately been a battle against Kim Jong Un," the defector said.

Thae, who is running under the name "Thae Gu-min," told South Korean reporters the breach is a violation of Article 3 of South Korea's Protection of Communications Secrets Act.

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"It is my understanding North Korea routinely hacks major South Korean agencies and key personnel," Thae stated in a text message to the reporters.

Thae, whose adopted name Gu-min means "rescue the people," said he would "continue to fight for justice, without backing down."

The defector, running under the newly formed Party for Future Integration -- a merger of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and two minor conservative parties -- said he does not leave any valuable data on his phone and has been taking precautions.

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"I am also in talks with security experts on a regular and occasional basis," he said.

Moon Jong-hyun, head of local security firm East Security, told Yonhap the hack was confirmed after he found the name "Thae Gu-min" on one of the hacker's servers. Moon contacted Thae following the discovery, according to the report.

The North Korean group that attacked Thae's phone is likely Kumsong-121, Yonhap says.

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North Korea is under heavy sanctions for nuclear weapons development, but the regime may be confident of its capabilities. Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported last week Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang said the Kim regime "feels no need to conduct tests."

In December, Kim warned Pyongyang was ready to introduce a "new strategic weapon." North Korea's weapons-related messages have declined since the outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus in China.

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