Almost 1,000 North Korean defectors have had their personal data leaked after a computer at a South Korean resettlement centre was hacked, the unification ministry said.
A personal computer at the state-run centre was found to have been “infected with a malicious code”.
The ministry said this is thought to be the first large-scale information leak involving North Korean defectors.
The hackers’ identity and the origin of the cyber-attack is not yet confirmed.
Are defectors’ families in danger?
The North Korean government does not know the identities of all citizens who have defected. Some may be a considered a “missing persons” case, or they may have even been registered as dead.
Some 997 North Korean defectors have now been informed that their names, birth dates and addresses have been leaked but it is not clear what impact this will have.
Analysts say there are some concerns that the leak could endanger the families of the defectors that still remain in North Korea.
Sokeel Park, South Korea Country Director for Liberty in North Korea, an international NGO that assists North Korean defectors, says this hack will make other defectors feel less safe living in South Korea. They may change their names, phone numbers and home addresses.
On 19 December, the unification ministry became aware of the leak after they found a malicious program installed on a desktop at a resettlement or Hana centre in North Gyeongsang province.
These are the institutes which the South Korean government run to help the thousands of defectors who have come from North Korea adjust to life in the South.