North Korea purchased 16,420 closed-circuit surveillance cameras from China in the first 11 months of last year as the regime stepped up the monitoring of its own people.
That figure is on top of the 85,570 similar cameras that it has bought in the past three years, with the total cost running to more than £6.22 million, according to South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper.
Citing Chinese export statistics on its trade with North Korea, the paper quoted analysts as saying that many of the cameras are being positioned at key points along the long border the two nations share in order to detect and capture would-be defectors from the North.
The new regime of Kim Jong-un has carried out a crackdown on people hoping to escape their repressive homeland, as well as anyone using a mobile phone to communicate across the border and smugglers bringing in banned newspapers, books and recordings of television programmes that show the lives of people in prosperous South Korea.
“All surveillance equipment there has something to do with the regime’s attempt to tighten its control over society,” a South Korea government official told the paper.
Evidence that North Korea is tightening its control on the lives of the people coincides with a new report by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights that concludes with a request that an international investigation be carried out into Pyongyang’s “deplorable” record on its citizens’ rights.
In a statement issued in Geneva, Navanethem Pillay said, “There were some initial hopes that the advent of a new leader might bring about some positive change in the human rights situation.
“But a year after Kim Jong-un became the country’s new supreme leader, we see almost no sign of improvement.”