North Korea recently purchased new surveillance cameras from China costing several million dollars, Daily NK has learned. 

Given that new surveillance cameras were already installed on the Sino-North Korean border last year, the purchase is likely aimed at ramping up surveillance with a view to stop smuggling activities and defections across the border. 

“The equipment was purchased from China in mid-May and cost approximately RMB 20 million [around USD 2,825,497],” a source based in China told Daily NK on Wednesday. 

“The camera system will be set up in areas where smuggling activities are common – not across the entire border,” he continued, adding, “The installation of the system will begin in late June.” 

Given that the cameras will only cover a limited area on the border, the high price tag suggests two possibilities: 1) the new system will film in higher definition than existing camera systems; or, 2) the system is so advanced that it can detect even the slightest of movements. 

There is the possibility that the installation of the new system is part of preparations to resume trade between China and North Korea, namely by further cracking down on smuggling activities by individuals.

“The purchase of the new system shows that North Korea wants to stamp out these smuggling activities to ensure only [official] Sino-North Korean trade is allowed across the border,” the source speculated.

The source noted that North Korean officials believe that smuggling activities conducted by individuals are a key way information and illicit goods enter and exit the country. 

“They believe that eradicating smuggling activities can prevent South Korean-made products, foreign-made videos and music from entering the country,” he added.

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