Facial Recognition Quashes Kim Jong-un Rumors

  • By Kwak Chang-yeol

    November 10, 2021 08:37

    Facial recognition technology has finally put paid to speculation that the new, slimmer North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is a double and the real Kim is seriously ill.

    Some sensationalist media claimed that Kim had not just dramatically shed pounds when he appeared at a ceremony in September but had different facial features and hairstyle.

    Japan's Tokyo Shimbun daily quoted a former South Korean Defense Ministry official as claiming that one of Kim's bodyguards could be the double. What drew particular attention was a report in the American tabloid The Globe that quoted a Pentagon official as saying facial recognition technology showed that the slimmer man who appeared on the rostrum in recent pictures was not Kim.

    But according to facial recognition specialists Onface, even basic technology can put such claims to rest. For example, connecting the eyes and nose yields a triangle whose size differs from person to person.

    Connecting around 300 virtual dots inside that triangle with an infra-red camera makes it possible to compare the contours and curves of a face.

    Jin Young-rak at Onface said, "Even if a person grows massively obese or loses weight, they don't change. That's why Kim's identity can be verified quite easily. A computer can do it in less than a second." 

    This combined photo from the official [North] Korean Central News Agency on Jan. 5 (left) and Sept. 29 shows how North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's glasses dig into his temples and later fit better.

    The National Intelligence Service here uses the technology to identify North Korean officials and said the man who appeared at the North Korean ceremony in September was not a double.

    Computers do face problems between the real person and a stand-in when the individual is wearing a mask, but Kim was not wearing one. Special facial prosthetics can also fool the sensors.

    China has the world's most advanced facial recognition technology and uses it to spy on its 1.4 billion people on a massive scale. The Chinese regime has been researching and investing in the technology for 15 years, and it is now so advanced that it can even identify the race of a person.

    According to the Washington Post, Huawei tested an AI technology that identifies Uighurs in a huge crowd of people and notifies the police. The information comes from an internal Huawei document.

    In Korea, around 20 companies specialize in facial recognition. Some companies say they can identify the nationality of people and even distinguish which province of Korea a person comes from.

    "We accumulated facial data of more than a million people, so we can roughly ascertain his or her nationality by scanning a face," an Onface staffer said. "We can even identify if they trace their ancestry to the Baekje, Koguryo, Shilla or Gaya bloodlines."

    But the technology to identify particular people in very large crowds has yet to be perfected and is prone to errors, which is causing concerns about false prosecutions and other miscarriages of justice. 

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