Prepare to evacuate! That order was received by U.S. military dependents in South Korea on September 21. The false messages were shared via both SMS messages and Facebook announcing “NEO” (noncombatant evacuation operation) for the families of the 28,500 servicemember and non-emergency essential DOD civilians, according to the Stars and Stripes.

Given the current state of affairs on the Korean peninsula, one can see how easily recipients could have been duped to begin their evacuation process, for which they train regularly. But, they were not. The process has a double-check within to ensure orders issued are authentic.

U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) jumped right in and refuted the issuance of the order and asked all who received the SMS or Facebook message to contact the U.S. Army counterintelligence group.

North Korea’s hand is shown

Disinformation operations are the hallmark of North Korea’s cyber entities. Their intent is to create chaos and infuse doubt. Previous activities attributed to North Korea include the 2016 hack into the phones of key government officials. With this hack, the North Koreans were able to manipulate the smartphones of a number of South Korean officials. In addition, in 2016, the North Koreans executed a SMISHing campaign, and generated SMS messages to South Korean government officials, according to the Straits Times, with the hopes that these officials would click on the link inside the SMS message appearing on their phones.

What next?

North Korea will continue to poke, jab, tweak and harass USFK, the U.S. in general, and thumb their noses up to the global unity surrounding their economic isolation. The fact “NEO” is regularly practiced and trained is not a secret, and all should always be prepared for the NEO order. The 8th Army Korea posts the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the NEO on the web. They expect all who fall under NEO evacuation orders to be prepared and have recommended a “go-bag” so that when the order does occur, one is ready.

NEO Kit Requirements:

Power of Attorney Will
Identification Card Passport
Birth Certificate(s) Marriage License / Certificate
USFK Form 178-R USFK Form 197-R
USFK Label 40 (Outside the Packet) DA Form 2404 (one per NC)
USFK Form 194 (one per family) DA Form 3955 (four per family)
DD Form 1337 DD Form 2461
DA Form 1701 (three copies) DA Form 4986
DD Form 2585 NEO Power of Attorney
USFK Form 123 USFK 198-R
DA Form 1156 Checking / Savings / Credit Cards
Vehicle Registration / title Insurance policies
Critical Medications (30 Days) Food and Baby Care Items
Clothing (if applicable)


Related News

Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).