Use of video surveillance technology appears to be on the sharp rise inside North Korea, a recent trip by NK News journalists to Pyongyang and photos taken from around the country suggests.
Closed-circuit television equipment was spotted installed in dozens of locations throughout Pyongyang, the September NK News visit showed, including factories, tourist attractions and hotel accommodations.
Notably, cameras were also visible on many street corners and other outdoor public places, including what appeared to, in some cases, be remote controllable PTZ (pan/tilt/zoom) equipment.
In comparison to photos from an NK News reporting trip in 2017, the cameras now appear to be present at a much wider number of locations.
In addition, an existing network of radar-capable traffic cams continues proliferating in Pyongyang, while photos obtained from Rason in the northeast of the country showed multiple camera types being sold at a consumer market in August.
Korean language signage at that market showed equipment being sold including “children surveillance cameras,” “video recorders,” and “USB cameras”.
Other photos obtained by NK News in August and September showed cameras in public places such as Kaesong, Samjiyon, and Nampo.
At the Pyongyang Teacher Training college, where CCTV systems were present in every room of the facility, a staff member in September explained to NK News they had been installed for multiple reasons.
“First, for security. Second, class observation,” they said, speaking through a guide from the DPRK foreign ministry.
“The principal can not only observe classes in person but they can also do it in their own room through the cameras…that way, they can monitor and evaluate all the teacher’s good and bad work, which can lead to better supervision.”
The staff member didn’t, however, elaborate on the security role of the cameras.
“I think we’re seeing two things,” said Dr. Andray Abrahamian, lecturer and Korea Fellow at Stanford University.
“First the cost of the systems has come down significantly over the past couple decades. And also DPRK institutions have a bit more spending power than they did in the early or mid 2000s.”
Abrahamian was unsure, however, if their growth might be linked to rising crime.
“It definitely happens but I don’t know how anyone would be able to say if it’s going up or down given the limitations we face when looking at the DPRK,” he said.
U.S. outlet Radio Free Asia in June reported that “Chinese investors are demanding that closed-circuit surveillance cameras be installed in Chinese-North Korean joint ventures operating inside North Korea to prevent workers from stealing materials and products that cause financial losses.”
The RFA quoted a source as saying that Chinese companies investing in North Korea say the installation of CCTV cameras in their facilities are a “critical factor in the success or failure of joint-venture businesses.”
Featured image: NK News
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