By Alex Jensen
SEOUL (AA) - North Korea attempted to infect the devices of defectors based in South Korea earlier this year as part of an apparent cyber warfare campaign, Seoul's policy agency revealed Wednesday -- after tracking suspicious emails to Pyongyang.
The North has long been suspected of targeting South Korean government, banking and media institutions -- but perhaps the best-known alleged North Korean hacking incident which disrupted the release of Hollywood movie The Interview in late 2014.
This latest accusation comes after Pyongyang recently claimed that Seoul abducted two groups of North Korean workers stationed at restaurants in China and appealed for them to be returned to their families.
While tens of thousands more people have risked severe punishment in North Korea by making the North-South defection since the 1990s, the restaurant cases are seen by many as a heavier blow to Pyongyang because the escapees were supposedly loyal citizens sending earnings back home.
According to the South's National Police Agency, North Korean defectors were among 48 recipients of emails laced with malware requesting support for a bogus police investigation in February.
A month earlier, nearly 40,000 people received a separate link featuring a video portraying South Korean President Park Geun-hye's support for Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions -- even though Seoul has been vehemently supportive of United Nations sanctions aimed at forcing the North to denuclearize.
A further email in January masqueraded as a message from an expert on North Korean affairs to dozens of recipients including reporters.
If the cyber campaign was partly aimed at infecting the devices of defectors, the police concluded after their probe into the matter that it was also driven by propaganda -- and current tensions on the peninsula could provoke more attacks.
"Following the recent sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council, it is likely that the North will continue to distribute malware through emails," an officer was quoted as saying by local news agency Yonhap.
No known damage was actually inflicted as a result of the cyber campaign in question, but the police are urging vigilance.