Video surveillance network expanded on China-North Korea border

Surveillance cameras installed on border guard posts in the Musan area of North Hamgyong Province. Image: Daily NK

The North Korean authorities are expanding video surveillance in the border areas to deter defectors and illegal border crossings.

“The leadership ordered the installation of more surveillance cameras here on the border with China and in other border regions too,” a source in North Hamgyong Province said, adding that the Second Battalion of the border guards, stationed along the Amnok River, has already finished installing cameras across a 17 km stretch of of the border.

“Each border battalion is equipped with an electronic monitoring apparatus, which it seems includes equipment that can enable infrared cameras or monitoring, but nobody knows for sure because they brought it in discreetly,” he noted.

The Kim Jong Un era has seen an increase in surveillance and control around the country’s border with China, including wiretapping to identify users of smuggled Chinese mobile phones placing international calls. There have also been significant deployments of joint inspection teams to investigate and implement measures to prevent border-crossings and defections.

“The layout of the area is such that the cameras are in plain view, so the authorities are using various fear tactics to scare people away from the border altogether,” a separate source in North Hamgyong Province reported.

The efforts are also thought to be aimed at instilling order among the border patrol rank and file who are often intricately involved in all manner of cross-border transactions, including defections, remittances, and smuggling.

“By putting a camera at every outpost, they won’t be able to engage in any of these activities. A lot of them will probably suffer profit losses as a result,” he added.

However, there are still entities who are free to operate despite the surveillance cameras. Some of the country’s foreign currency-earning enterprises remain under the protection of the government. The North Korean authorities have allowed these companies to lead “smuggling” in order to secure the cash needed to govern.

“These companies take over the posts during transactions with their Chinese counterparts and the guards are expected to turn off the cameras and not report what they’ve seen,” a source in Ryanggang Province added.