Bill Richardson Says He’s Surprised at Potential North Korean Link to Sony Hack Attack

Bill Richardson North Korea Sony Hack
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who made multiple visits to North Korea on diplomatic missions and as a private citizen, says that he is surprised at reports of North Korea’s potential involvement in the massive attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.

But he says that the country’s government does have a tendency to retaliate in some way, “especially when they feel aggrieved.”

Richardson, who was ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton, traveled to North Korea in 1996 to negotiate the release of an American who was being held on spy charges after entering the country from China.

“I’m frankly surprised if North Korea would take such aggressive steps against Sony because [government officials] have contacted me about establishing digital partnerships” with some of the American studios, although it is unclear what that could be given the sanctions against the country.

As federal authorities investigate the hacking attack, North Korean officials have denied they were behind it. But government officials have expressed their displeasure at “The Interview,” a comedy in which Seth Rogen and James Franco play entertainment reporters tasked with interviewing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The CIA recruits the duo to assassinate him.

“I do know that the North Koreans have been very upset about this movie,” Richardson said. “They often and almost always retaliate in some way when they feel aggrieved.”

There have been doubts over the capability of the North Koreans to carry out the attack, and Richardson said he believes that if the North Koreans were involved, they would have had some kind of assistance, even an accomplice with inside access to the company’s systems. What is difficult to understand, he said, is why North Korea, if involved, would go so far as to expose massive amounts of personal employment data.

North Korea has sent letters of protest to President Obama, according to Voice of America, and the country has denounced the movie and an official has made threats of retaliation if it is released.

On his most recent trip, Richardson went to North Korea last year with a delegation that included Google’s Eric Schmidt. At the time, Richardson said, he heard from government officials that they were interested in having a “digital relationship” with some of the American studios. The country has a movie industry that “is quite advanced, believe it or not,” he said.

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