Things just got a lot harder for North Koreans trying to escape. Since 2019, China has installed thousands of facial recognition cameras and technology along the border of North Korea. The technology uses 5G, allowing computer-to-computer communication to identify, track, and follow North Korean refugees.
With the added risk, smugglers are increasing the price they charge to sneak North Koreans across the border and into China.
Facial recognition technology has been placed along the Tumen River; the river separating China and North Korea. As soon as the system identifies someone, the cameras are able to follow them. 5G allows the systems to communicate with computers, immigrations, military, and local police as the refugee continues to move. Facial recognition system technology have been installed on street corners, train stations, and bus depots to continue tracking individuals who are not in the state identification system.
According to Seo Jae-pyoung, head of the Association of the North Korean Defectors, the face of nearly every Chinese resident is registered in a government database, but North Koreans escapees are not. This alerts the system and helps police and immigration officers to quickly respond.
In March of this year, the surveillance software appeared to be a key factor in the capture of five or six North Korean refugees and a local broker helping them move within China. All of them were caught by Chinese police near the northeastern city of Dalian.