North Korean defectors

The personal data of almost 1,000 North Korean defectors have been stolen after a computer at a South Korean resettlement centre was hacked, the unification ministry has said.

Officials said Friday that a computer belonging to the Gyeongbuk Hana Center was “infected with malicious code,” enabling hackers to access the information — including names, birth dates, and addresses — of 997 defectors.

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The center is operated by the Hana Foundation, a non-profit body set up in 2010 by the Unification Ministry to provide “protection and settlement support for North Korean defectors.”

About 30,000 people have fled North Korea for South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 war. In the past, prominent defectors have been targeted by the North Korean authorities and families left behind in the North have faced punishment.

“Currently no harm or damage has been observed due to the leak,” a Unification Ministry spokesman told CNN. “We have been contacting each defector (to brief them).”

In a statement, the Hana Foundation said it offered “our sincere apology” to those affected.
“The PC had been immediately disconnected and secured,” it added.

“The personal information that had been leaked (which includes name and birth date) will be explained individually over phone or mail. We are operating a hotline to report issues and damages.”

In a statement, the Unification Ministry said the hack had been detected during a check of the computers by a “related authority,” which then ordered an on-site investigation.

On the compromised computer were files containing the personal information of defectors based in the eastern region of Gyeongbuk, which had been created by the Hana Foundation “to provide support for the defectors.”

“We apologize for causing worry to many defectors with this incident,” the Ministry said, adding it would try to strengthen protection of personal information.