U.S. offers $5 million reward for information on North Korean IT workers

The United States offers a $5 million reward for information on North Korean IT workers involved in a telework scheme using false identities of U.S. citizens, aiming to disrupt illicit activities linked to the regime’s munitions industry.

The United States has announced a substantial reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the apprehension of three North Korean IT workers and their manager allegedly involved in a sophisticated telework employment scheme. The individuals, identified under aliases Han Jiho, Jun Chunji, Xu Haoran, and their manager Zhonghua, stand accused of orchestrating a fraudulent operation enabling North Korean workers to secure remote employment using false identities of American citizens.

According to the State Department, the illicit scheme, operational from October 2020 to October 2023, reportedly yielded at least $6.8 million in revenue for the North Korean regime. Christina Chapman, a U.S. national, facilitates North Korean workers’ employment, primarily as software and applications developers for various companies across different sectors. The workers allegedly assumed the identities of more than 60 genuine U.S. individuals, with unsuccessful attempts made to secure positions within two U.S. government agencies.

Chapman is alleged to have aided the workers in acquiring legitimate U.S. identities and providing them with equipment to simulate a U.S.-based work environment. Furthermore, she purportedly facilitated their remote access to American companies’ IT networks and participated in the laundering of proceeds by managing paychecks issued to the workers.

The implicated North Korean workers have ties to the Munitions Industry Department of North Korea, responsible for overseeing ballistic missile development, weapons production, and research and development programs, as per the State Department.

The reward, facilitated through the Rewards for Justice (RFJ) program administered by the Diplomatic Security Service, aims to incentivize the provision of crucial information. Established in 1984, the RFJ program has disbursed over $250 million to more than 125 individuals worldwide for aiding in the prevention of terrorism and mitigating threats to U.S. national security. Notably, the program has previously awarded $5 million each to individuals whose intelligence contributed to disrupting illicit financial schemes benefiting North Korea.