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The rise of Kim Jong-Un's sister and image maker
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Oct 10, 2017

N. Korea hacked Seoul's war plan: report
Seoul (AFP) Oct 10, 2017 - North Korean computer hackers have stolen hundreds of classified military documents from South Korea including detailed wartime operational plans involving its US ally, a report said Tuesday.

Rhee Cheol-Hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic party, said the hackers had broken into the South's military network last September and gained access to 235 gigabytes of sensitive data, the Chosun Ilbo daily reported.

Among the leaked documents was Operational Plans 5015 for use in case of war with the North and including procedures for "decapitation" attacks on leader Kim Jong-Un, the paper quoted Rhee as saying.

Rhee, a member of parliament's defence committee, could not be reached for comment but his office said he had been quoted correctly.

The report comes amid heightened fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula, fuelled by US President Donald Trump's continued threats of military action against Pyongyang to tame its weapons ambitions.

In his latest tweet over the weekend, Trump reiterated that diplomatic efforts with North Korea have consistently failed, adding that "only one thing will work".

Citing Seoul's defence ministry, Rhee said that 80 percent of the leaked documents had yet to be identified.

But the contingency plan for the South's special forces was stolen, he said, as well as details about annual joint military drills with the US and information on key military facilities and power plants.

A ministry spokesman declined to confirm the report, citing intelligence matters.

In May the ministry said North Korea had hacked into Seoul's military intranet but did not say what had been leaked.

Pyongyang has a 6,800-strong unit of trained cyber-warfare specialists, according to the South Korean government. It has been accused of launching high-profile cyber-attacks including the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

The Chosun Ilbo story was the second report Tuesday of military-related cyber-attacks in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia's government said separately an unidentified defence contractor had been hacked and a "significant amount of data" stolen.

There were 47,000 cyber-incidents in the last 12 months, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, Minister for Cyber Security Dan Tehan said in Canberra as he launched a report by the Cyber Security Centre

The defence contractor was exploited via an internet-facing server, with the cyber-criminals using remote administrative access to remain in its network, the report said.

The Australian newspaper reported that the hacker was based in China but Tehan told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that "we don't know and we cannot confirm exactly who the actor was".

With her elevation to North Korea's powerful politburo, leader Kim Jong-Un's little sister -- and chief image-maker -- has established herself as the most powerful woman in the nuclear-armed state's political hierarchy.

Kim Yo-Jong's promotion to membership of the North's top decision-making body underlines, analysts say, the level of trust her brother places in one of his closest aides and confidantes.

Ruling North Korea has always been a family business, but one where the substantial personal benefits on offer are matched by the potential for a catastrophic -- and sometimes fatal -- fall from grace.

Kim Jong-Un's half-brother, Jong-Nam died in agony at a Malaysian airport earlier this year, poisoned by nerve agent-wielding assassins in a hit that North Korea watchers say must have been given the nod by the leader himself.

Yo-Jong is believed to be in her late 20s, making her the youngest member of the reshuffled Workers' Party politburo that was unveiled at the weekend.

She is the only one of Kim Jong-Un's siblings to hold an official title and -- in a family tree complicated by their father Kim Jong-Il's various marriages and partnerships -- enjoys a special relationship with her brother in that they also share the same mother.

"They share a life-long bond and her promotion to the politburo means Kim Jong-Un has complete trust in her," said Professor Yang Moo-Jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

"She could be the one to take over from Kim in the event of his absence," Yang told AFP.

Like her brother, Yo-Jong was partly educated in Switzerland and her first explicit appearance in North Korea's state media came in 2009 when she accompanied her father on a visit to an agricultural university.

She became a regular member of Kim Jong-Il's entourage until his death in 2011 and featured prominently in official photos of the funeral, mourning alongside her brother.

After Kim Jong-Un took over the leadership, her public career in the party propaganda department progressed in leaps and bounds and, in 2014, she was listed as a "vice department director" in the party's central committee.

According to Michael Madden, editor of the North Korea Leadership Watch website, her official propaganda role made her "the leading image maker for her brother and (North Korea) as a whole."

With the exception of Kim Jong-Un's wife, Ri Sol-Ju, Yo-Jong is the only relative with whom the supreme leader is known to have a close relationship.

External recognition of her position and influence came earlier this year when she was named among seven North Korean officials targeted with US sanctions for "ongoing and serious human rights abuses and censorship activities."

Cheong Seong-Chang a senior researcher at the Sejong Institute think-tank in Seoul said her promotion to the politburo presaged a more visible presence at the top of the top of the political hierarchy.

"She is expected to play increasingly greater roles down the road," Cheong said.

North Korea watchers have long speculated that Yo-Jong was being groomed to play the same leadership supporting role as her once powerful aunt, Kim Kyong-Hui.

Kyong-Hui was a close aide to her own brother and late leader Kim Jong-Il for decades, assuming senior positions in the party and becoming a four-star general in 2010.

But she largely disappeared from public view after her husband Jang Song-Thaek was executed in 2013 for charges including treason.

She and Jang had been seen as the ultimate Pyongyang power couple, and instrumental in smoothing Kim Jong-Un's transition to power, before Jang fell from grace.

Wal-Mart stops fish imports from NK-linked plant; NK operating some factories left by Seoul
New York (AFP) Oct 5, 2017
Wal-Mart said Thursday it no longer imports fish from a Chinese factory that employed North Koreans after a report said the US retailer may have inadvertently subsidized the nuclear-armed state. Wal-Mart barred suppliers from using fish from a facility in Hunchun, one of several in the eastern Chinese city that were reported to employ North Korean laborers in slave-like conditions. Wal-M ... read more

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