South Korean’s largest cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb’s recent news that it is to ban trading with 11 countries including North Korea once again brings focus on its northern neighbor’s activities in crypto space.

Along with North Korea, other banned countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethiopia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Vanuatu, and Yemen.

The ban will prevent trade by any residents of countries that are on the ‘Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories’ blacklist of global anti-money laundering body, the Financial Action Task Force. It was announced on 27 May and will come into full force on 21 June, according to the Asia Times.

It is believed the South Korean giant has introduced the ban in order to improve its profile in the crypto world by adhering to global financial community norms and needs to form associations with totally compliant members.

One of the reasons that North Korea is on the list of banned countries, despite its attempts to manufacture some kind of détente with its southern neighbor, is that Kim Jong-un’s Pyongyang regime has repeatedly been accused over a period of years of heists and hacks against cryptocurrency exchanges, banks, and multinational organizations in attempts to raise desperately needed hard cash for its failing economy.

Patrick Winn, in a piece and published earlier this month by GlobalPost Investigations, claims that North Korea’s equivalent of the CIA has created a team of the world’s finest hackers who have struck over 100 banks globally netting a sum of USD 650 million.

This would not be the first of such planned super-thefts supposedly planned by economically-beleaguered North Korea following last year’s cyber attacks, which targeted banks in 18 countries, with Pyongyang accused of using the money to boost its then-burgeoning nuclear program. The so-called Lazarus program then targeted financial institutions in Europe, Central and South America, Africa, India and the Middle East, according to Russian researchers.

The fresh allegations come at a time when North Korea is finally balanced in talks with both South Korea and the US. Although it is thought the heists were implemented in order to bypass US sanctions, one interviewee claims that alleged stolen millions were spent on “Chanel bags for the mistresses of top leaders… antibiotics for sick children… low-quality but calorie-rich rice to feed the malnourished population” and “spare parts for a new transcontinental missile capable of hitting New York”.

 

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