[ISN] A Look at Mirim College, Hotbed of Cyber Warfare

From: InfoSec News <alerts_at_private>
Date: Mon, 9 May 2011 03:06:48 -0500 (CDT)

By Lee Seok Young and Kwon Eun Kyoung
Daily NK

Since it was revealed that the Nonghyup computer system error was caused 
by North Korea’s General Bureau of Reconnaissance, it has become clear 
that North Korean cyberterrorism is a new and potent threat to South 

IT education in North Korea is reserved for a select few, as most 
citizens have no access to Internet technology or facilities. At the 
core of North Korea’s IT education is an effort to raise professional 
cyber-warriors—particularly through training at Mirim College, an 
institution founded in 1986 by order of Kim Jong Il.

The name ‘Mirim’ harkens back to the college’s founding, when it was 
located in Mirim-dong, Sadong-district in Pyongyang. In more recent 
years, it has been relocated to Chesan-ri, Hyeongjesan-district, 
Pyongyang, and has endured a number of name changes: first the Command 
Automation College of the Chosun People’s Army, and then in 2000 the Kim 
Il Political Military University. However, its official name is the No. 
144 Military Camp of the Chosun People’s Army.

To most people, it is known as a “secret college,” or alternatively a 
“talented person college,” as it is intended to produce and cultivate 
the most talented soldiers of the People’s Army.

A North Korean defector, Cheong, arrived to the South in 2009 and 
previously served at a military base in Pyongyang in the mid-1990s. As 
such, he is well acquainted with the college, and explained its ins and 
outs to The Daily NK on May 5.

According to Cheong, since this college has a highly confidential 
mission—education of world-class IT warriors—its security is so 
exhaustively kept that individual guard units are dispatched to the 
college solely for security. The security manual distributed to guards 
indicates that, “Without the permission of the college commander, no car 
should be allowed entrance to college grounds except for that of Kim 
Jong Il.”

Students of the college wear the same uniform as military officials, but 
on their shoulders they brandish special stars, on which hak (meaning is 
learning) is printed. A “Kim Il Political Military University” badge is 
worn on the left side of the chest.

Basic coursework takes five years to complete, and there are some 120 
students on each grade. It consists of two educational tracks: a 
five-year college track and a three-year research course, which is 
similar to a master’s degree. In the first track, authorities select 
model students from graduates of the first senior middle schools—special 
high school for talented students—and also recruit exemplary young 
scholars attending Kim Il Sung University and Pyongsung College of 
Science. For the research course, students from National Defense 
University and Hamheung College of Mathematics are also recruited.

There are five professional departments: electronic engineering, command 
automation, programming, technical reconnaissance, and computer science. 
Notably, the command automation department teaches defensive and 
offensive programming and hacking tactics in a course entitled “South 
Chosun’s Early Warning System and How to Respond to It.”

After graduation, students are dispatched to the Nos. 32, 101, and 121 
offices, which exist under the General Bureau of Reconnaissance of the 
Ministry of the People's Armed Forces. In addition, Mirim College 
graduates are frequently assigned as Staff Officers of Technology, in 
which they research automation warfare for the two electronic warfare 
brigades, which were established in 1992.

Until 1991, higher-level students benefited from lectures presented by 
Soviet Union military academy professors. After the Soviet Union’s fall, 
however, professors returned to their country, and were replaced by 
North Koreans who had studied at Frunze Military Academy. However, their 
term was relatively brief given the “1992 case of students studying 
abroad,” in which almost all former students of the Frunze Military 
Academy (including one of the best graduates, Ok Gwang) were sweepingly 
purged from late 1991 to 1992 on suspicion of espionage.

Cheong presumed that, “The soldiers, who led the two cyber attacks in 
2009 and March this year, and the latest Nonghyup OS, may have been 
those who graduated from the college in 1992 and thereafter.” In this 
light, he notes that Kim Sung Il, who graduated from Mirim in 1992, is 
now a Major, and has responsibility for a hacking group based in 
Shenyang, China.

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Received on Mon May 09 2011 - 01:06:48 PDT

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