Amid rising tensions between the United States and North Korea, newly released documents reveal hackers believed to be from the secluded nation stole a trove of secret documents, including U.S.–South Korea wartime plans.
Rhee Cheol-hee, a South Korean lawmaker with the country’s Minjoo Party, told reporters this week that hackers “presumed to be North Koreans” stole 235GB of data from the South Korean military. The country’s defense department admitted the breach, which occurred in August and September 2016, due to a freedom-of-information request by Rhee.
The secret documents include OPLAN 5015, the most recently crafted plan by the U.S. and South Korea for dealing with all-out war with North Korea, and OPLAN 3100, which address how to respond to infiltration by North Korean military operatives.
Hackers may have absconded with other sensitive documents, but the military only listed about 22.5 percent of the stolen documents (53GB or around 10,700 documents), according to South Korean newspaper Chosunilbo. The contents of the remaining 182GB remain unknown, Rhee told the Yonhap News Agency.
News of the breach follow increasingly heated rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in mid-September, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it attacks the U.S. or an ally like South Korea. Kim responded by questioning Trump’s ability to serve as president, calling him a “dotard.”
Despite Trump’s antagonistic posturing, many assume a military option for dealing with North Korea, which recently acquired the ability to launch a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile, as impossible to carry out without devastating civilian casualties. However, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) questioned the wisdom of doubting unimaginable action by Trump.
“It’s time to take Trump seriously as he keeps hinting, over and over, that he wants to go to war with North Korea,” Murphy said Monday on Twitter. “Trump’s war drum rhetoric seems like over the top braggadocio but why assume it’s just bluster? Other bluster (Muslim ban) led to action.”