Mass surveillance in North Korea

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Mass surveillance in North Korea is a routine practice employed throughout the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.[1] North Korea "operates a vast network of informants who monitor and report to the authorities fellow citizens they suspect of criminal or subversive behavior."[2] North Korea has been described as a "massive police state", and its people "under constant surveillance".[3][4]


One author wrote:[5]

Seemingly, every aspect of a person's existence in North Korea is monitored. This oversight of citizens has extended beyond wired microphones and wiretapping of fixed-line and mobile phones. Microphones are now even being used outdoors to pick up conversations. There is a general sense that it is dangerous to engage in any serious conversation about sensitive topics when three or more people gather at one place, regardless of how friendly they may be.

All computers are subject to random checks by authorities and must be registered with the government.. Some computers may access the national intranet, called Kwangmyong, but true Internet access is restricted to the "super-elites".[6][7] North Korean officials stationed abroad generally have their internet access monitored by staff.[6]

Western companies have been criticized for selling surveillance technology to repressive regimes, including North Korea.[8][9] In order to "tighten surveillance over the populations in the border regions", surveillance teams were switched from 5 people to 3.[10][11]


The three major surveillance organizations in North Korea are the State Security Department, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Military Security Command.[4]

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea reports that North Korea operates a "massive, multilevel system of informants", rewarding informers with gifts. That informant network is run by the State Security Department, which controls at least 50,000 personnel, and the SSD maintains a network of prisons for individual suspected of "holding unacceptable views".[3] The MPS monitors correspondence and telephone conversations. The WPK Organization and Guidance Department is responsible for investigating and spying on senior officials.[12]

The Ministry of Public Security, the nation's the police agency, is estimated to control nearly 140,000 - 210,000 public security personnel.[1][3][13]

The Military Security Command, part of the armed forces, is tasked with monitoring "the activities and political loyalties of DPRK military commanders and other KPA officers" and "identifying anyone seen as disloyal".[3][14] The MSC became more prominent in the mid-90s, when there began a rapid increase in defections.[4]

In the 2010s

Over a span of four years, the government purchased about 100,000 closed-circuit television cameras.[15]

Ri Yong-Ho, who held the post of Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, was 'purged' after he was reportedly recorded on wiretap complaining about Kim Jong-Un.[16][17]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Comparative Criminology | Asia - North Korea". Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Agence France-Presse (2012-07-19). "Massive police state controls North Korea: study". The Raw Story. Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "DailyNK". DailyNK. 2013-12-26. Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. YOSHIHIRO MAKINO/ Correspondent (2013-11-06). "INSIDE PYONGYANG (1): Kim Jong Un's dictatorship intensifies in North Korea - AJW by The Asahi Shimbun". Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "JPRI Working Paper No. 118". Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia - Andrei Lankov - Google Boeken. Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Ryan Gallagher. "Governments turn to hacking techniques for surveillance of citizens | Technology". Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Trevor Timm (2012-02-07). "Time to Act on Companies Selling Mass Spy Gear to Authoritarian Regimes | Electronic Frontier Foundation". Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Strict Surveillance for Kaesong Workers". Daily NK. Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Systematic Tyranny: How the Kim Dynasty Holds the North Korean People In Bondage". Forbes. Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Military Security Command". 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2014-01-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "North Korea steps up surveillance of citizens with 16,000 CCTV cameras". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "Reports: Wiretap led to Ri's ouster in N. Korea; firefight killed 20". World Tribune. 2012-08-02. Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Yoon, Sangwon (2012-07-15). "North Korea Promotes General After Kim Jong Un Fires Army Chief". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2014-01-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>