NATIONAL

University points finger at hackers, denies connection to alleged Blue House document

By Choi He-suk
  • Published : Nov 27, 2018 - 16:05
  • Updated : Nov 27, 2018 - 16:05

A document claiming that Seoul’s presidential office is aware of Washington’s disapproval of its North Korea policies was the work of hackers, and the information in it did not come either from Cheong Wa Dae or Ajou University, the chief of the university’s China research center said Tuesday. 

Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom. Yonhap

“The file was made by a hacker group, and sent to me using (presidential secretary) Kwon Hee-seok’s name to steal information,” said Prof. Kim Heung-gyu, director of Ajou University’s Chinese Policy Research Institute. When the attempt failed, he said, the hackers distributed the file to a large number of individuals using the name of a researcher at the institute.

“Kwon did not send any documents, and the lecture was completely different from the news report.”

Kwon is a secretary with the National Security Office who was reported to have compiled a document detailing Cheong Wa Dae’s assessment of South Korea-US relations, as well as Washington’s disapproval of Seoul’s North Korea and foreign policies.

The document in question, titled “Kwon Hee-seok’s lecture materials,” was circulated last week, but controversy emerged Monday after a local daily cited the document in a report suggesting that Cheong Wa Dae is fully aware of a widening gap in Seoul-Washington cooperation on North Korea.

The document claims the US government feels that Seoul and Washington’s approaches to North Korea are diverging.

The document also claims that the US considers South Korea and China “the weakest link in sanctions” against Pyongyang. The document goes on to say that the US suspects South Korea of “trying to damage cards the US can use” and that the US is dissatisfied with Seoul’s decisions on reducing military tension with North Korea.

Cheong Wa Dae was quick to deny any connection with the document, citing differences in format as well as the existence of security measures that would have prevented any documents created at the presidential office from being leaked.

“If a document is compiled by Cheong Wa Dae, the phrase ‘this document cannot be photocopied or removed without authorization’ is printed at the top, and ‘THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA’ is watermarked when the file is printed,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said Monday.

He added that any document printed at the presidential office shows the name of the person who printed the document and the time of printing down to the second.

“The presidential office is in the process of identifying who made and distributed the document, and all possible measures will be taken.”

Kim also denied the possibility of the document being leaked in electronic form, saying all electronic documents compiled by the presidential office are encrypted.

By Choi He-suk and Ock Hyun-ju (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com; laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)