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(LEAD) S. Korean gov't monitoring N. Korea's suspected bitcoin hacking

All Headlines 13:57 December 18, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 18 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government said Monday it's keeping tabs on North Korea's bitcoin-related activities amid news reports that the emerging cryptocurrency sector is Pyongyang's new target of hacking attacks.

"We are aware that North Korea have been engaged in various activities so far to evade sanctions and earn foreign currency," Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman for the Unification Ministry, said at a press briefing.

He was referring to the reports that North Korea may be behind recent hacking attempts against virtual currency exchanges here.

"We are monitoring (North Korea's) trend related to bitcoin," the official said, but stopped short of confirming whether the government has detected any concrete sign or evidence that the secretive North is actually involved.

He was guarded as well about whether the government has data on an estimated amount of bitcoin the North possesses.

(LEAD) S. Korean gov't monitoring N. Korea's suspected bitcoin hacking - 1

He added South Korea is seeking measures to curb North Korea's apparent illicit acts, associated with digital currency, in cooperation with relevant authorities, including the state cybersecurity center," Baik added.

South Korea, a tech-savvy country, is known as a mecca for Bitcoin trading.

The price of bitcoin has sharply jumped over recent months.

"We are continuing efforts to block North Korea's hacking attempts," Baik said.

The South's major financial and other organizations have at times come under the North's hacking attacks, according to the nation's state spy agency.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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