N. Korean hackers tried to steal Pfizer vaccine know-how, lawmaker says

A nurse takes part in the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccination mock drill at a vaccination center in Seoul

The official ruling Worker's Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun released photos of the pair at the event this week to mark the birthday of Kim's late father and former leader Kim Jong Il.

Ri, who often accompanied Kim to key public events, had not been seen since January last year when she was pictured at an event for the Lunar New Year holiday, stoking speculation over her health and potential pregnancy.

Her first mention on KCNA came in 2012, about half a year after her husband took over as leader, and her name has appeared on the official news agency about 200 times since then, according to a NK News database search.

North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infections, but the NIS had said an outbreak there can not be ruled out as the country had active trade and people-to-people exchanges with China before closing the border in early 2020.

South Korean lawmaker Ha Tae-Keung said today that North Korea tried to obtain technology involving COVID-19 vaccine and treatment by using cyberwarfare to hack into Pfizer. North Korea says it has not had a single coronavirus infection, but the claim is doubted by the U.S., Japan and others.

Various incidents of pharmaceutical firms being the target of online hackers have taken place since the start of the pandemic, such as AstraZeneca in November 2020, followed by the European Agency of Medicine just a month later.

The state of Kim's health and his family are among the most closely guarded secrets in the highly secretive state, known only to a few people in Kim's inner circle.

Some 200 North Koreans settled in the South previous year, down around 80% from 2019, Unification Minister Lee In-young has said, citing the reclusive state's shutdown of its frontiers in January 2020.

"That is not the sort of thing that works for a dictator in a country that is so male-dominated as North Korea", he told DW.

The current South Korean government of President Moon Jae-in espouses rapprochement with North Korea and a negotiated settlement of the global standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

The couple are believed to have three children, with the youngest born in 2017, according to the South's intelligence service.