North Korea Rolls Out Trial of GPS Devices to Monitor Border Guards

2017-04-05
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North Korean border guards stand outside a building in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, Sept. 25, 2013.
North Korean border guards stand outside a building in the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas, Sept. 25, 2013.
AFP

North Korean authorities have started attaching GPS satellite tracking devices to guards on duty to intensify border security in a trial run of the technology before rolling out a full-blown plan to outfit all patrols with the gadgets, sources inside the country said.

“Satellite tracking devices were introduced to the fourth company of the border garrison in Onsong county [in North Hamgyong province], that suffered flood damage last year,” said a source from the province which borders China.

“The reason why the satellite tracking devices were introduced to the fourth company first is that the company is guarding the main path for defection and smuggling,” he told RFA’s Korean Service.

Attached to the guards’ automatic rifle straps, the satellite tracking device has enabled the battalion headquarters to improve security because it prevents guards from going AWOL from their posts along the border as often as they have done previously, the source said.

A source from Yanggang Province told RFA that a trial run for the satellite tracking devices were introduced to the fifth battalion of the 25th brigade of the border garrison stationed in Kimjongsuk county along the Yalu River on the border between North Korea and China.

“However, I cannot understand why the satellite tracking device was introduced in such a remote location,” he said

The North Korean-made satellite tracking devices that have been given to members of the battalion only have a registration number, a small oval-shaped LCD display, and a power switch, he said.

“The guards have no idea how the satellite tracking device works,” the source said. “The monitoring equipment for the satellite tracking device is not in the company. It is located in the headquarters of a battalion, so it is hard for guards of the company to figure out how the satellite tracking device works because it is monitored by the battalion headquarters.”

Authorities introduced the satellite tracking system because some border guards who were on duty crossed into China to commit robberies or else fell asleep in bunkers when they should have been monitoring the border areas, he said.

“Moreover, it is also a preventive measure for keeping border guards from entering residents’ houses during work hours,” the source said.

Yet, it remains unknown whether the current satellite tracking device only confirms the location of a guard or records surrounding sounds and voices as well to prevent them from smuggling or assisting defectors, he said.

“However, once the guards of the company confirm how the satellite tracking devices work, then they will be able to cope with them,” he said.

Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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