The identity of VANK|Fumiaki Yamasaki

The identity of VANK|Fumiaki Yamasaki

At present, "influence operations" is gaining the attention of intelligence agencies all over the world. However, it is not well known that Japan has been exposed to such attacks for many years. Fumiaki Yamasaki reveals the propaganda of Korea's largest anti-Japanese organization, "VANK".

Solicitation manual like of religious organizations

A poster created by VANK overhanging the Japanese embassy construction site on January 6, 2020

One of the most urgent issues in cybersecurity has been the topic of discussion among experts: influence operation. Influence operation is a term that refers to the act of impressing opponents' camps and governments by playing fake news. Influence operations are now becoming a national security threat that can sometimes upset politics and the economy and endanger the state.

According to a report by the U.S. Senate Information Committee published last October, a Russian Internet researcher called Chi Agencies (IRA), which was interdicted in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and get under indictment by the U.S. grand jury in February 2018, has been active again,

Postings by IRA have about 200% increase rate on Instagram and about 50% increase rate on Twitter and YouTube, concerns about intervention in the US presidential election this year is raising.

The threat of influence operations is not beyond the sea. Japan has suffered from the effects for many years. That is the existence of the Korean V-bank ANK (Voluntary Agency Network of Korea). VANK will be the chairman of Park Park Ki Ki (朴起台)on January 1, 1999.

It is a self-proclaimed “private diplomatic mission”. The members are mainly junior high and high school students, and they have 150,000 members (as of March 29, 2017).

VANK aims to train 200,000 cyber diplomats, by the campaign named “PRKORIA 200 Thousand Project”. The campaign is firstly to build friendships with foreigners, and “My friend's country” and establish the brand of the state of Korea. And secondary, the campaign is to find and correct mistakes in descriptions about Korea found on foreign websites and books. The thirdly the campaign aims to raise awareness of foreign history and culture among junior and senior high school members.

It is a grassroots activity to spread South Korea's claim; one citizen makes five pen friends, then the five pen friends will talk about Korea to each five another pen friends.

The “VANK Guideline” for members is like a solicitation manual for religious organizations. “Remove the prejudice against foreigners and keep open-minded, and advertise Korea to the ‘My friend's country’ by starting with personal everyday experiences like interest in the friend’s country as well as attending a Korean wedding by using Korean music and food photos and videos."

It also warns that “members should not overemphasize the promotion of Korea.” It says that rather than unilaterally promoting Korea, starting with building “human intimacy”and listen the talk by his friends.

Truth Purpose – Untold truth

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Produce stamps and coins

What does each member do after making pen-fringes abroad and getting friend with foreigners? The real purpose of VANK is to carry out the so-called “Discount Japan Activites,” in which publicize “Japan's historical distortions” (according to their claims but they are not true) and loses its position in the international community. They are disparaging Japan with the various “issues” root in their fake historical issues like “comfort women” (wartime prostitute with exceptional high payments), so-called recruitment issues (paid wartime coal miners with social insurance), the Rising Sun flag (have been Japan military flag since 19th Century and existing Naval flag), the Takeshima territorial issue, the name of the Sea of Japan, and so on. And it is said that more than 20,000 foreigners are now inspired by these claims, and anti-Japan is spreading throughout the world.

(Yonhap News, February 18, 2015).

Recent “achievement” of VANK is “correction” from "Japan Sea" to “Japan Sea/ East Ton Sea” on an Australian veterans-related site regarding the Korean War, in last October.

Spread reputational damage around the world

Back up by the Korean Government and LINE Korean IT company

The fund for VANK activities is donations from members and the sale of goods. Donations can be made on the website of VANK. The donation is 3,000 KRW (approximately 280 JPY), which can be paid by elementary school students.

This amount of 3,000 KRW is called “the amount of one brick”, and root in the slogan of the fundraising campaign for the construction of the Independence Hall, located in the city of Mud Tian Chiyo An Nan, Chung Chiyung, Ching Chiyo South Nanna Expressway (completed in 1987). And the fundraising was promoted by teachers at all schools in Korea to students. Therefore, it is a symbolic amount for patriotism.

The products that VANK sells as activity funds include can badges and clear files and postcards. And in last June, a passport cover with illustrations of Takeshima (Dokdo) and the Sea of Japan (East Ton) were sold with 14,500 KRW (about 1, 360 JPY). Although they call themselves private diplomatic missions, these ostensible funds alone cannot cover the cost of such their activities. And in fact, they are public organizations receiving government funding.

Until 2009, the public research institute of The Academy of Korean Studies s was assigned a budget of 50 million KRW to VANK. And in 2008 when Lee Imi Ming Yong- Bak became president, such budget assignment was done by direct instruction of the President. And since 2009, they also has been receiving financial support from the Northeast Asian History Foundation. Such Korean government's policies for financial support are consistent regardless of changing the Presindents, Lee Myung-bak, Park Park Geun-k Hue-Ne, and Wen-Moon in Jae-Tora-in.

Financial assistance is not limited to the Korean government. Speaking of typical examples, Japanese company called Neighbor Inc., the parent company of the overwhelmingly supported chat tool “LINE”, provides funding. Ironically, the more Japanese people use LINE, the more misinformation is spread to the world. In 2008, it was confirmed that Neighbor Inc. donated 100 million KRW. The operation of blogs and other sites on the Internet of VANK is undertaken by Neighbor Inc.

Cyber Dokdo Military Academy

A video posted by VANK on YouTube on November 11, 2019

The company of Hait Shinro Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of a sprits called “JINRO” is also funding to VANK. In 2009, Cyber Dokdo Military Academy was established with funding from Hait Shinro.

Cyber Dokdo Academy is co-operated educational institution with cooperation work with Administrative of Gyeongsangbuk-do that provides systematic education for elementary, middle and high school students about Dokdo (Takeshima, Japanese territory), and have them submit reports online.

Korea's position on Dokdo's territorial rights is that "Dokdo is an obvious Korean territory. Therefore, it is not conflict area, and there is no reason or plans to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)."

As an aside, as South Korea claims that it is not a conflict area, Japan frequently flies private drones over Takeshima and frequently conducts seafloor surveys, just like China does to the Senkaku Islands. Should we do this and build a track record of being a conflict area?

There is growing public opinion among some younger generations in Korea that the issues should be settles at the IJC per the international law.

The South Korean government, which is wary of such public opinion (because Korea has absolute disadvantage if the issue was brought to IJC), is focusing on conducting thorough education in Dokdo from elementary school students as well as Cyber Dokdo Military Academy.

As a result of such South Korean government's anti-Japanese education, a questionnaire survey result enrolled Korean 618 elementary school students in South Korea in 2013 showed that 530 which is 86% disliked Japan and 67% of the respondents answered the reason is that Japan claims Dokdo as their territory.

Besides, VANK's anti-Japanese education program is held every year in the whole country as a lecture on "Asahi Sun Flag is the same as Haken Kreuz of Nazis and recruitment work is same as Auschwitz" (see photo).

The relationship between VANK and the Korean government is not limited to funding. Park has been given posts by successive governments as ambassador to Seoul and a mentor to the Youth Committee of the President.

Also, big politicians such as Ban Pan Ki-Gi Moon, who served as Secretary-General of the United Nations until December 2016, became involved. VANK has expanded its power even more and is gaining political influence.

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Aberrant sabotage for Tokyo Olympic Games

VANK launched a campaign against the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2013.
A letter opposing Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games because “"Japan has no remorse for war crimes.” Was submitted by VANK to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as well as to major foreign media such as CNN and the New York Times.

On the US government petition site, VANK signed a campaign saying, "Block Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games .". In response to the rumor “created” by VANK that “Japan is contaminated with the radiation of one thousand atomic bombs” the Korean government announced to ban importing marine products from the Pacific prefectures of Tohoku and Kanto on September 6, 2013 (Japan time). And on the next day, the Tokyo was selected as the host city of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

According to the public survey conducted by the Real Meter, professional organizations for public survey, shoed that 68.9% of Koreans think that “Korea should boycott the Games unless additional safety measures were taken” It means 7 of 10 Koreans support the boycott.

VANK's opposition to the Games has become more aberrant this year. On January 6, a poster was put on a temporary fence on the new site of the Japanese embassy in Jong Chiyo Road, Nono District, where the image of Games are contaminated by radioactivity (see photo). See). The poster, in which the Olympic Torch Relay was replaced with a radioactive material transport scene, gives a strong impression.

VANK will soon send this poster to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee (TOCOG) and officially distribute it online. Until the opening of July, VANK plan to increase the number of posters both online and offline. Park Ki-chan the president of VANK says, “The purpose of making these posters is to give hope both the athletes and spectators of the Tokyo Olympics will be safe.

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FBI launches investigation

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March 1, 2013, Sanfu, USA

The data center, Pacific Internet Ex Change (PIE) server got huge traffic from bots mainly from Korea, and downed.

A bot is a virus, it automatically make repeatedly access to targets servers. Even though a single attack from a bot is small, it becomes huge if it was made from hundreds and even hundreds thousands PCs, and down servers.

PIE filed a damage report of more than 2.5 million USD (270 million JPY), to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and made it public. Then the attack became quiet.

This attack is caused by doubt for scoring to the Korean figure skater Kim Jonah at Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. The doubt was written in "2 Channel" (now Written in the current 5 Channel. And the attackers made attack to "2 Channel" which have servers in the U.S. , and the attack resulted in the cyber-attack to the U.S. company.

And the reason why the attack became quiet is said to be that FBI which have high skill/knowledge for cyber-attack investigation started the work.

Although is it not comfortable that the investigation capabilities of Japanese investigative agencies at the time seems low, it is one of the benefits of having a server in the US.
The Chosun Ilbo reports that this attack was led by VANK, though the FBI ’s investigation results is not publicized.

It has been 20 years since VANK was established. At that time, junior and senior high school students who received anti-Japanese education through VANK are now good adults. And VANK including Cyber Dokdo Academy
It seems that the members' skills in cyber-attacks have improved significantly. And the fact that the network is spread around the world is undoubtedly a threat to us Japanese.

Japan as too vulnerable

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The idea of using citizens as public diplomats is nothing unique to VANK. One example is the Israeli government's “peer-to-peer diplomacy” program, which educates and utilizes diasporas (Jews who have settled outside Palestine),

It is not uncommon for countries to use citizens as public diplomats, such as focusing on activities to create friendly foreigners.

However, as in the case of the Korean government, there is no other country in the world where the anti-Japanese era continues to this day. There is no doubt that VANK exists behind the Korean government. With the existence of VANK, the attitude of the Korean government has not changed. The threat of influence operations is not limited to diplomacy. As seen in the Russian interference to the U.S. Election for President in 2016, leading public opinion through SNS and spreading fake news via movies are expected to be even more popular in near future.

In the case of IRA, a Russian company mentioned earlier, did activities like spreading fake news via SNS and political advertisements onto the social media, after gaining PayPal payment service accounts with illegally gained information of social security numbers and birthdays.

The e-Gov service provided by the Japanese government (e-Gov: Provides comprehensive search and guidance services for administrative information provided by each ministry and the Internet as well as online application to them) does not check nationalities when it accepts public comments (public opinion solicitation procedure based on the Administrative Procedure Law). Based on the fact, it is necessary to doubt the result of the public comment in the future.

As the threat of influence operations continues to grow, I have to say that Japan's measures are too vulnarable.

Fumiaki Yamasaki

Principal Institute of Information Assurance for National Security Japan Born in Osaka Prefecture in 1955. Former Professor of the University of Aizu. Graduated from Kobe University Maritime Science Faculty in '78. After working at a non-life insurance company, he joined Pricewaterhouse CPA in 1983, a US international auditing firm, and was in charge of security auditing for major IT manufacturers and major telecommunications carriers as Manager of the System Auditing Department. Since then, gained field experience at several system consulting companies and security consulting companies. Incumbent from 2016. In research activities, we interview the parties and stakeholders directly with the creed of "confirming the facts with our own eyes". Authored "the War for Information Nation and Japan "(Kadokawa Shinsho).


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