Clamor for CCTV Cameras in Public Places Grows

      July 06, 2021 12:56

      Demands for more surveillance camera in public places have been growing since a university student was found dead in the Han River in April. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has promised to install 240 more CCTV cameras by the end of this year.

      The Cheong Wa Dae website is also inundated with requests to install more CCTV cameras in kindergartens and schools for children with disabilities to keep an eye on them.

      But is total surveillance the cure for all social ills? When the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission polled 14,000 people last month on their opinions about installing CCTV cameras in hospital operating rooms, 98 percent were in favor. Proponents say they will provide crucial evidence in cases of medical malpractice, negligence or sexual assault by doctors.

      The Minjoo Party says data show that CCTV cameras helped nab 17,079 criminals in the first half of 2019. Gong Jung-sik at Kyonggi University said, "CCTV cameras make potential criminals nervous and could have the effect of dissuading them."

      Protesters call for mandatory CCTV cameras in kindergartens in front of the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday.

      But the demands are also fueled by a culture of suspicion and distrust. The Korea Institute of Public Administration unveiled a study in March showing that the level of trust Koreans have in each other stood at a dismal 1.9 points out of a maximum four points. Because of this mutual suspicion, many are willing to throw privacy and other human rights under the bus.

      The coronavirus epidemic has only desensitized people more to these intrusions as increasing infringement of privacy is tolerated in the name of tracking down virus infections using GPS and credit card records, while endless phone camera footage online of every move people make has diminished the value people place on privacy and personal data protection.

      Choi Hyang-sup at Kookmin University said, "It's common to see CCTV cameras in public places in many countries, but it's a uniquely Korean phenomenon to see people actually demanding more. This seems to reflect mutual distrust in society and a punitive streak in the nation."

      Kwon Hun-yeong at Korea University warned, "We need to reach a social consensus to determine whether self-imposed controls are really necessary and make sure to minimize unwanted side effects if CCTV cameras are installed."

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