North Korea accused of illegal online gambling: Gyeongheung IT organization exposed

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South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has uncovered the clandestine involvement of North Korea’s IT organization, known as ‘Gyeongheung’, in the country’s online gambling landscape. Linked to North Korea’s notorious Room 39, responsible for generating foreign revenues, Gyeongheung has allegedly facilitated illegal foreign currency accumulation by selling thousands of gambling websites to domestic criminal syndicates within South Korea.

As reported by agbrief, operating under the guise of the Gyeongheung Information Technology Exchange Company, based in Dandong, China, the organization employs a team of 15 individuals tasked with developing various types of software, predominantly gambling websites. This elaborate setup operates discreetly, masquerading as a local clothing company managed by a North Korean-Chinese entrepreneur.

To evade UN sanctions prohibiting the overseas employment of North Korean laborers, Gyeongheung members reportedly resorted to fabricating Chinese ID cards and falsifying IT certificates. Charging approximately KRW 6.5 million ($5,000) per website and KRW 4 million ($3,000) for monthly maintenance, the proceeds are channeled through Chinese bank accounts or borrowed-name accounts associated with Korean cyber gambling groups.

Alarming reports indicate that Gyeongheung members hold administrator privileges on these platforms, enabling them to pilfer personal data and embed malicious code. The National Intelligence Service has identified at least 1,100 data sets belonging to South Koreans within a database offered for sale by the organization.

Despite the knowledge of their North Korean origins, South Korean criminal syndicates have continued to engage with Gyeongheung, lured by the allure of low production costs and proficiency in the Korean language. This revelation underscores the extent of North Korea’s infiltration into South Korea’s online gambling industry and raises concerns about cybersecurity and illicit financial activities within the region.