Archive for the ‘Surveillance’ Category

North Korea strengthens neighborhood surveillance routines, says RFA

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

By: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

According to a report by Radio Free Asia, which cannot be fully confirmed, North Korean authorities have recently strengthened the neighborhood-level surveillance regime by formally instituting fines (presumably for the inminbanjang or by some neighborhood account, though the article doesn’t specify) for not registering outside visitors who stay overnight. This registration has long been a practice in North Korea and goes back at least to the 1950s, but during the last 20 years of marketization, has reportedly been less enforced at least in some parts of the country.

The surveillance regime in North Korea, like most other aspects of the country’s governance, is highly segmented along geographic lines. So we don’t know to what extent the development described here is relevant for the whole country. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting data point in what increasingly appears to be Kim Jong-un’s campaign to take North Korea’s surveillance system back to its roots (article only in Korean):

함경북도의 한 주민소식통은 24일 “오늘 도당위원회의 지시에 따라 새 ‘가정경비법’이 청진시 주민들에게 일제히 포치되었다”면서 “이 법은 이미 짜여진 사회안전망에 더해 주민자체 경비구조를 한층 강화하는 주민 통제법”이라고 자유아시아방송에 전했습니다.

소식통은 “오늘 청진시 포항구역의 매 인민반마다 ‘가정경비법’에 관한 인민반회의가 열렸다”면서 “회의에서는 ‘지역에서 주민들의 안전한 생활을 보장하기 위해 기존의 주민 자체경비체계를 더욱 강화하라는 법 내용에 대한 설명이 있었다”고 증언했습니다.

소식통은 “이번 가정경비법은 주로 인민반별 자체경비를 철저하게 해서 불순분자들의 침투를 막아야 한다는 것”이라면서 “이에 일부주민들은 불순분자의 침투를 막는다는 핑계로 주민 상호 감시를 더 강화하라는 것 아니냐며 불만을 토로했다”고 말했습니다.

소식통은 이어서 “현재 인민반 마을입구마다 있는 경비초소에는 주민들이 당번을 정해 돌아가면서 빨간 경비완장을 팔에 끼고 경비를 서고 있다”면서 “그런데 이번에 발표된 가정경비법에는 경비를 서는 주민이 외부인의 마을 출입 상황을 기록하지 않아 발생한 사건사고에 대해서는 책임지고 해당한 벌금을 물도록 되어 있다”고 설명했습니다.

(Source and full article: 김지은, “북, 주민통제 강화하는 ‘가정경비법’ 새로 제정,” Radio Free Asia, 25/11/2022.)


Satellite imagery shows North Korean government investments in surveillance and border security

Friday, November 18th, 2022

By: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Al-Jazeera reports:

North Korean authorities have imposed “excessive and unnecessary” border measures since January 2020, including upgraded fences, guard posts and patrol roads, an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows.

The beefed-up security includes the addition of 169 guard posts and nearly 20km (12 miles) of new fencing in the vicinity of the border city of Hoeryung, a popular transit point for smuggling and trade, between November 2020 and April 2022.

HRW said it had spoken to five North Korean defectors involved in smuggling goods in or out of the isolated country who have been unable to carry out their activities since February 2020.

“The North Korean government used purported COVID-19 measures to further repress and endanger the North Korean people,” said Lina Yoon, a senior Korea researcher at HRW.

“The government should redirect its energies to improving access to food, vaccines and medicine, and respecting freedom of movement and other rights.”

Yoon said past experience had shown that relying on state-run distribution of food and essential goods “only entrenches repression and can lead to famine and other catastrophes”.

Hanna Song, director of international cooperation at the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights (NKDB), which was not involved in the report, said the findings mirrored other data, including the sharp decline in defections to South Korea, which fell from 1,047 in 2019 to just 42 so far this year.

“Using COVID-19 has been a great excuse for the Kim Jong-un regime to tell its people that they are protecting them, while actually just meeting their objectives of keeping the North Korean people isolated,” Song told Al Jazeera.

“That being said, NKDB has been able to see that the North Koreans are not completely closed off,” Song added. “In a survey that NKDB did with 399 North Korean escapees in September 2022, 71 people said that they had sent money to North Korea in 2022 and 87 people have had some form of contact with family members in North Korea.”

(Source and full article: “‘Excessive’: North Korea’s COVID curbs blamed for food crisis,” Al-Jazeera, November 17th, 2022.)


North Korea’s Korean Worker’s Party Secretariat statement on Party discipline and social control

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

The Korean Worker’s Party Secretariat met this past Sunday (June 12th) and discussed, among other things, social disobedience and discipline within the Party, in no uncertain or soft words (as reported by Yonhap here.) Statement below in its entirety:

Meeting of Secretariat of WPK Central Committee Held

The Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Sunday held a meeting at the office building of the WPK Central Committee to discuss major issues of the Party work.

The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, presided over the meeting.

Attending it were Jo Yong Won, Pak Jong Chon, Ri Pyong Chol, Ri Il Hwan, Kim Jae Ryong, Jon Hyon Chol and Pak Thae Song, secretaries of the WPK Central Committee.

The meeting discussed the major tasks to be fulfilled in the Party’s immediate activities and its building.

It discussed the issue of scrupulously conducting the organizational and political work to firmly arm the Party organizations at all levels with the spirit of the 5th Plenary Meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the WPK and inspire them to the implementation of the Party decisions and of decisively improving the role of the Party organizations in the overall Party and state affairs this year, and assigned relevant revolutionary tasks.

The Secretariat of the WPK Central Committee discussed importantly the issue of establishing the traits of firmly preserving discipline within the Party and waging a more intensive struggle against unsound and non-revolutionary acts including the abuse of power and bureaucratism revealed among some Party officials.

Clarifying the immediate work and prospective tasks for taking organizational and institutional measures and establishing the efficient work system to further strengthen the Party Central Inspection Commission and intensify the discipline supervision system among the local Party organizations at different levels, including the basic ones, and for putting the norms of supervision, discipline examination and penalty on a more detailed basis, the respected General Secretary called for expanding and strengthening the authority and function of discipline inspection departments for aiding the work of the Inspection Commission, enforcing the strict supervision work system, discipline examination order and stern penalty system in keeping with the legitimate demand of the essence and strengthening of the Party’s line of building discipline, and thus thoroughly guaranteeing the realization of the monolithic leadership of the Party Central Committee and the broad political activities of the Party through the strong discipline system.

Saying that it is necessary to prioritize the work for encouraging and raising the high political principle, fighting spirit, revolutionary style and communist moral traits within the organizations of the whole Party to thoroughly carry forward the nature, mission and duty of the revolutionary party and develop the fighting efficiency of the socialist ruling party, he stressed that, to this end, it is essential to push ahead with as an indispensable priority task the work to strictly establish the strong habit of observing the rules and discipline of the Party and the supervision work system and rectification system over the execution of the Party’s line and policies and embodiment of sound working style and moral life.

Clarified at the meeting was the important and strategic party-building idea of the General Secretary on regarding the building of the Party’s discipline as its prior important task and major line in the party building and activities, more firmly consolidating the Party’s foundation, improving the revolutionary and militant efficiency in the Party’s political activities and enhancing, improving and strengthening the Party’s role and trait.

The Secretariat of the WPK Central Committee decided to take institutional measures for thoroughly applying the original idea and theory of the General Secretary on building the Party’s discipline to the Party work and activities.

The meeting also discussed other major issues of improving the Party inspection and guidance work and enhancing its interior work.

Political News Team


North Korea strengthens camera surveillance along the Chinese border

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

This is part of a very interesting trend, of surveillance in North Korea going more high-tech. Border security under Kim Jong-un has been a high priority, resulting in a significant drop in the number of defectors reaching South Korea. Recall, as the article does, that this is but one of several purchase rounds of surveillance equipment from China in recent years. It’s also part of a government drive to strengthen control overall – of economic and social trends and activities:

“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.

(Source: Mun Dong Hui, “N. Korea to install new surveillance cameras on Sino-NK border,” Daily NK, 26 June, 2020.)