What North Korea’s Surveillance Equipment Upgrades Say About Policies and Priorities

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According to a recent report, North Korean authorities have improved their system for monitoring and detecting the use of foreign-made (illegal) cellphones along the border. This is all part of the general repression of “anti-socialist” phenomena over the past four-five years, and under Covid-19 in particular:

North Korea has replaced radio wave detectors installed in regions along the China-North Korea border with the latest models.

Authorities use radio wave detectors to crack down on illegal cell phones.

According to a Daily NK source in Yanggang province, North Korean authorities recently replaced radio wave detectors in border areas such as Hyesan and Samjiyon as part of their efforts to root out locals who use mobile phones. illegal ones made overseas.

Bureau 10 of the Ministry of State Security, the division in charge of radio wave surveillance, replaced the equipment under strict secrecy from October 1 to 15.

The source said that given the way the ministry has upgraded its detectors along the border to the latest models, it looks like the ministry will once again wage a fierce war to eradicate illegal mobile phone users. manufactured overseas.

In fact, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of State Security has been waging an extensive “cleansing war” and “annihilation war” in the border regions against people who use illegally manufactured mobile phones. the stranger.

The Ministry of State Security arrested many border residents for espionage, subjecting them to varying degrees of hard labor. In serious cases, the ministry even trained residents in political prison camps.

As cross-border commuters continue to use illegal cell phones to contact China, South Korea or other countries despite these efforts, the Ministry of State Security appears to have replaced its existing radio wave detectors with high-end detectors capable of tracking the location of cell phone users. faster and more accurately.

A defector who came to South Korea in 2019 told Daily NK that given how the Ministry of State Security installed the old radio wave detectors years ago, maybe it was time to replace them.

“In fact, if the ministry replaced them with new high-performance radio wave detectors, it means that they want to root out more Chinese-made cellphone users, and even if they don’t, the rumor that he installed new devices would have been effective in generating fear that authorities would catch people using Chinese-made cellphones,” he said.

(Source: Kim Chae-hwan, “North Korea Replaces Border Radio Wave Detectors with Latest Models”, NK daily, November 3, 2022.)

None of this information can be confirmed and the report relies on a small number of sources. Still, if accurate, the news is interesting for several reasons. On the one hand, it highlights the regime’s growing reliance on surveillance technology and its investments in it. Furthermore, it further highlights the government’s emphasis on border control and information censorship, which has increased significantly in recent years.

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