North Korea, infamously, has a cell phone network that is still on par with 3G. But a new report says that country may be using 5G technology for border control purposes.
The site’s source claimed that North Korean authorities “plan to use 5G mobile communications technology to monitor the situation along the border from as far away as Pyongyang with surveillance cameras.”
The report also claimed that North Korea has already created a 5G network, and that the surveillance cameras have been set up near the Yalu River, with cameras located every 100 meters. The cameras are being managed by the Operations Office of the Ministry of State Security, according to Daily NK.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been a variety of crises on the border between North Korea and China, from smuggling to concerns about coronavirus, although North Korea continues to claim that it has had zero coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic.
And while the technology is for monitoring the border with China, it was that nation that was reportedly the source of the technology.
“I understand that China agreed to cooperate [with North Korea] as Beijing was building a 5G network along the border in 2019,” a second source told Daily NK. “North Korea acquired 5G communications equipment [from China] at that time.” So the plans for the 5G monitoring predated the pandemic, it would appear.
However, the story indicated that 5G monitoring was already going on on the China side of the border.
While North Korea’s mobile network infrastructure remains relatively primitive, Daily NK cited a publication last year from North Korea’s Science Encyclopedia General Publishing House which stated that “research efforts to adopt 5G mobile communications technology should be strengthened.”
However, there are indications that North Korea will have trouble skipping directly from 3G networks to 5G, without ever using 4G/LTE.
One academic expert told the site that “it would be hard for North Korea to build a citywide 5G network in a major metropolitan area due to the country’s domestic economic situation and international sanctions.” However, the regime could likely put 5G capability in certain areas, provided they had access to the necessary equipment.
“5G is not a logical communications system for a surveillance network,” Kim Yu-hyang, the professor of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told the publication.
“If they are sending video footage from the border to Pyongyang, it seems highly likely they are capturing the video data at the border using 5G, but ultimately sending it to Pyongyang using a wired network.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.