The North Korean authorities have completed the installation of surveillance cameras along the entire Sino-North Korean border region in the middle of February. The installation of these cameras is part of efforts to clamp down on undesirable activities in the area, and points to heightened surveillance over residents in the region in the near future.
“The installation of surveillance cameras along the Yalu River and Tumen River has been completed,” a source in Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on March 11. “Cameras had just been present in important zones in the past, but as of February 16 (Kim Jong Il’s birthday), they’re now covering the entire region.”
Daily NK reported through North Korean sources in December 2018 that the authorities had ordered cameras to be installed across the entire Sino-North Korean border region and that the installation process was underway.
A source in North Pyongan Province added, “The surveillance cameras prevent thieves from North Korea crossing over into China to steal things at will. They will also likely cause a great deal of trouble for local residents in their smuggling activities and use of cell phones.”
North Korea began a massive campaign last year to heighten control over the border region, starting with a large scale arrest of brokers sending money into North Korea, the deployment of German-made electronic signal jamming and surveillance equipment, and the creation of a joint inspection team for the region.
The authorities are focusing their efforts on surveillance of residents in the region by eavesdropping on their calls, raiding their homes, and deploying listening devices.
The recent installation of surveillance cameras is aimed at keeping an eye on both local residents and soldiers, and appears to be aimed at improving the poor levels of discipline within the [military] border patrol units.
“The cameras watch over border guards to see whether they are sleeping at their posts, or not conducting patrols at the right time,” said a source in North Hamgyong Province who reported similar developments in her region.
“The cameras also make it harder for them to go into people’s houses to steal alcohol or sleep there.”
The new surveillance cameras will also make it harder for border guards to turn a blind eye toward smuggling and defections across the rivers, said the source.
Nevertheless, the sources noted that there are many cases in which the newly installed cameras have broken down. This may be due to the state’s focus on installing massive numbers of cameras irrespective of quality. Border guard units may also be purposefully putting the cameras out of action so they can continue their illegal activities.