Strict Surveillance for Kaesong Workers

North Korea has designated three security personnel for every five workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), a source has revealed.

According to the source, cadres affiliated with the National Security Agency (NSA), Ministry of People’s Security and the Worker’s Party are tasked with the surveillance and mutual observation of the North Korean workers.

The system was established to quell any potential ideological unrest among employees at the complex, many of whom have daily contact with South Korean business operators.

Kim In Chol (assumed name), a former security agent in North Hamkyung Province, met with Daily NK on the 16th.

“In 2004 when the complex first opened, cadres in the North Hamkyung security and party agencies were dispatched in force. A system was created in which three cadres watch over five employees. All movements are reported and everyone watches each other,” he explained.

“Their main task is to submit weekly reports to their overseeing agencies, and in some circumstances they have to report more often than that. The party and security agencies that receive these reports on the movements of each individual worker then share the information with the people responsible for each business. These people in turn report to the manager of the entire complex. In this way, any ideological wavering is kept thoroughly in check.”

“The cadres tasked with watching the workers also have to keep an eye on each other. This is far more intense than the ordinary surveillance system outside of the complex,” Kim went on.

Kim assesses that, “The North is obviously concerned about ideological changes among the people due to the complex. If this mutual surveillance system hadn’t been constructed then the 50,000 North Korean employees would not be able to work.”

Indeed, North Korea’s existing surveillance system may well lose its efficacy in circumstances where workers can spend up to ten hours a day in the presence of South Koreans. For this reason, the NSA, the Ministry of People’s Security and the Worker’s Party have banded together, Kim believes.

“Not only is the content of conversations reported on, but also the mood and expressions of the workers. Every single move is being watched,” he explains.

“Strict ideological and self-criticism sessions are ordered if something sensitive is said regarding the South, or if a worker approaches a South Korean. In more serious cases some have even been sent to prison camps.”

However, while workers are well aware they are being watched, their interest has nevertheless been piqued in regard to the South Korean businesses, the managers and South Korea itself.

Kim believes that North Korean workers getting along well with the South Korean business owners represents a ‘crack’ in this tight surveillance system.

Needless to say, the consequences for breaking the rules can be severe.

“In 2008, I heard that a 23-year-old North Korean woman who managed a restaurant and boarding house owned by a South Korean was secretly executed by the NSA. There was talk she was pregnant. The authorities wanted to shut this rumor down so they killed her,” Kim revealed.

Another North Korea expert explains, “They have been mingling together for a while now, and it’s well known that North Korean workers and South Korean managers sometimes date each other. But if they are ever discovered the worker is immediately kicked out and cannot return to the complex.”

Meanwhile, 80% of the original North Korean workforce has returned to work at the complex after months of stalled operations.