North Korea has tasked 200 agents with the job of posting negative comments online, often using stolen online identities, in a bid to undermine the morale of their neighbours in the South.
The brigade of NORK trolls is part of a brigade of 3,000 cyber warriors and hackers that make up the Reconnaissance General Bureau information warfare force, according to the Police Policy Institute.
Ryu Dong-ryul of the Police Policy Institute said, "The North has established a team of online trolls at the United Front Department and the Reconnaissance General Bureau."
About 200 agents post derogatory comments on South Korean portals using assumed identities stolen from South Koreans, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reports.
The South Korean thinktank reckons other members of the NORK cyber army are building malware and launching hacker attacks while the trolls are posting comments with links to N Korea propaganda sites designed to sway public opinion in favour of Pyongyang.
North Korean agents posted more than 27,000 propaganda messages designed to turn people against the South during 2011 alone, the institute estimates. In 2012 this figure increased and more than 41,000 messages were posted, delegates at a seminar in Seoul earlier this week were told. Objectives of the campaign include getting unblock access to pro-North Korean sites for surfers visiting from the South.
North Korea is the prime suspect in destructive malware attacks against the computer networks of banks and TV stations earlier this year, the latest in a series of attacks. Cyber assaults included attempts to knock targeted sites offline have been going on within the Korean peninsular for some years. Ordinary North Korean citizens have only heavily regulated access to government controlled websites through local cybercafes.
The hermit kingdom does maintain various portals and propaganda outlets, some of which are hosted in China, such as Uriminzokkiri.
Using agents of the state in a propaganda offensive fought on social media sites and consumer portals is an unusual tactic but it's not restricted to North Korea. As previously reported, cadres of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards include similar digital propaganda units.
Lim Jong-in of Korea University estimates 30,000 North Koreans are engaged in cyber and psychological warfare against South Korea, a group swelled every year by another 300 personnel "trained in the dark arts", as Chosun Ilbo catchily describes it.
This hoard of cyber-ninja Death Eaters are arrayed against a much smaller South Korean force that is growing by only 30 personnel a year. ®