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Attack of the Zombie PCs

One of the largest acts of cyber-terror in South Korean history hits vital country websites. President Lee Myung-bak gives away his money. The EU and South Korea sign an agreement to increase trade by almost $100 billion. And the government says no to studying past 10 p.m.


Top news: South Korea fell victim to one of its largest-ever cyber attacks that paralyzed government, bank, and other major websites over a course of three days. The attack was carried out by tens of thousands of “zombie PCs” across the country that had been infiltrated by malicious codes spread through websites. The computers were ordered to access designated websites some tens or hundreds of times a second causing the web pages to crawl or crash.

The government launched an emergency cyber-terror response team that was able to track down some of the host servers used to orchestrate the attack, but it has yet to confirm who was behind the cyber sabotage. Media reports citing unnamed officials said North Korea was believed to have carried out the attack, but the reports have yet to be confirmed.

President Lee Myung-bak made public his plans to donate most of his personal wealth to create a scholarship and welfare foundation using his real estate and most of his savings, which mount to roughly $26 million.

The president had pledged to return his wealth to society during his election campaign and established a committee for the task after coming into office. The foundation, named after the president and the first lady, will provide scholarships and financial assistance for the needy youth.

A North Korean ship suspected of carrying illegal weapons turned back to its port of departure after being followed for over a week by U.S. navy vessels. 

The ship left North Korea’s Nampo port June 17, becoming the first vessel to be monitored by a new U.N. resolution that allows the international community to seek permission to board and inspect the North’s ships at sea if suspected of carrying arms or nuclear material.

The U.N. slapped Pyongyang with heightened sanctions for carrying out another underground nuclear test in May despite previous resolutions that banned the North from doing so.

Money: South Korea and the EU agreed to seal a free trade agreement that is expected to increase commercial exchanges by a near $100 billion for both sides. Seoul and Brussels started negotiations in 2007 to lower barriers in trade and investment. The EU is Korea’s second largest export market, and South Korea is the EU’s fourth largest non-European trade partner.

The trade pact faced strong opposition from the European auto industry on the issue of duty drawback. That will allow South Korean carmakers to import cheaper automobile parts from other countries and receive a reimbursement on them for cars exported to EU member states.

South Korean pork and dairy producers have voiced concern over the pact that proposes to scrap most tariffs on pork and dairy products over the next 5 to 15 years.

The drafted deal has plans to make 97 percent of the trade between the two sides duty-free over the next five years. The two sides will sign a tentative deal in September and finalize the pact after the agreement is translated into 23 languages of the 27 EU member states and signed separately by each country.

South Korean consumers are seeing a steep rise in food prices, which jumped 11 percent compared to a year ago — becoming the second highest after Iceland among 30 OECD countries. The average increase in food prices of the 30 member states was at 2.7 percent.

General consumer prices in the country have only seen a rough two percent increase, but food prices are said to have skyrocketed due to the increased cost of raw materials and weak won.

Elsewhere: The Ministry of Education implemented a measure that bans private academies from operating after 10 p.m. in its efforts to curb spending on private education.

South Koreans are known to rely heavily on private education, as students stay at private institutions late into the night to prepare for college entrance exams. The ministry has offered a cash reward to those who report private academies operating after hours and also said informants of illegal institutions can receive up to almost $1,500 in reward money.