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South Korea becomes 1st Asian country to join NATO's cyber defense group

South Korea becomes 1st Asian country to join NATO's cyber defense group
Photo Credit: Pixabay
6 May, 2022
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South Korea has become the first Asian country to join North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE). The move will likely to mount tensions with Moscow. 

The country’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) made the announcement today, according to Yonhap News Agency

According to NIS, it has been admitted as a contributing participant for NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, a cyber defense group based in Tallinn, Estonia. It is the first time an Asian country joins the group. 

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The centre was initially set up in 2008 following a series of crippling cyber-attacks in Estonia traced back to the Kremlin. It serves as a knowledge hub, research institution and training facility focused on interdisciplinary applied research, consulting and exercises in cybersecurity. 

The NIS submitted its application to join the group in 2019 and has made efforts to contribute to the group. It has participated in the world’s largest international live-fire cyber defense exercise, Locked Shields, two years in a row since 2020, the agency said. 

Locked Shields is the world's largest and most complex international real-time cyber defence exercise, organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) in Tallinn, Estonia.

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With Korea’s membership, NATO CCDCOE now has 32 countries as its official members of which 27 NATO member countries,  are categorised as sponsoring nations, and five contributing participants which are non-NATO countries. 

“Cyber threats are causing great damage to not only individuals but also separate nations and also trans-nationally, so close international cooperation is crucial,” NIS said. 

“We plan to send more employees to the CCDCOE and expand the scope of joint exercises to reinforce our cyber defense capabilities,” it added. 

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The move by South Korea will be met with fury in Moscow following a vote by the CCDCOE in March to admit Ukraine as a “contributing participant” alongside other non-NATO countries such as Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and now South Korea. 

“Ukraine, in fact being a testing ground for the use of cyber-tools for malicious purposes, has the unique practical experience in neutralising cyber-attacks that may be useful to partner countries. We continue to build national cybersecurity capacity, strengthen and enhance our legislation,” said Ukrainian ambassador Mariana Betsa on a visit to the Tallin-based center in April. 

Another non-NATO member, Finland, also won the centre's Locked Shields 2022 cyber defense exercise last month.

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