North Korea is tightening surveillance of the population using tens of thousands of Chinese-made surveillance cameras. According to Chinese customs data, the North imported a total of 16,420 CCTV cameras worth about US$1.66 million from China from January to November last year.
In 2009, the first year China published statistics on bilateral trade, the North imported a whopping 40,465 surveillance cameras from China. In 2010 the figure was 22,987 and in 2011 22,118. Altogether the North has imported over 100,000 cameras worth about $10 million.
A South Korean government official speculated, "All surveillance equipment there has something to do with the regime's attempt to tighten control on society."
Pundits say the cameras are mainly for the long porous border with China to stop a growing tide of defections.
Meanwhile, crude oil and oil products were the major products the North imported from China between January and November last year with a total value US$526 million. Next came naphtha products ($101.7 million), cargo trucks ($92.2 million), and flour ($58.8 million).