U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry denounced North Korea Monday for repressing Internet freedom for its citizens, and condemned the communist country for last year's hacking attack on Sony Pictures in Hollywood.
Speaking at Korea University in Seoul, the top American diplomat praised South Korea and Japan for their Internet freedom, while attacking Pyongyang for limiting total Internet access in the reclusive country to a small, privileged elite.
Korea and Japan "are among the world's leaders in Internet access, while North Korea is at the exact opposite end of that spectrum with the lowest rate of access in the world and the most rigid and centralized control," Kerry said.
No other government is as extreme as the communist nation, he added.
"But there are more than a few who want to harvest the economic benefit of the Internet, while nevertheless closing off the avenues of political, social and religious expression," Kerry said. "They impose filters that eliminate broad categories of what their citizens can see and receive and transmit, and with whom ideas may be changed."
America’s top diplomat said the U.S. believes digital policy "should seek to fulfill the technology's potential as a vehicle for global stability and sustained economic development, as an innovative way to enhance the transparency of governments and hold governments accountable."
Washington has blamed North Korea for last year's cybersecurity invasion of Sony Pictures, something Kerry called "provocative, destabilizing and repressive."
President Barack Obama sanctioned three North Korean organizations and 10 individuals for the attack. It came shortly before Sony's release of "The Interview," a comedic film centered on journalists sent to by the CIA to North Korea to interview and assassinate its leader, Kim Jong Un. At the end of the film, which received poor reviews in the U.S., the actor playing Kim is depicted as having his head exploded by a shell.
The cyberattack on Sony disrupted the company’s internal technology system. A vast amount of secret information was divulged, including employees' salaries and emails in which Sony executives made disparaging comments about a wide array of Hollywood figures.
North Korea denied involvement in the attack, but praised it as a "righteous deed."
Kerry said Monday the U.S. is now is considering how to stiffen the sanctions even further.