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Two Hundred and Seventy-two Eyes are Watching

Posted August. 24, 2004 21:59,   


The Seoul Gangnam area will be under surveillance cameras for 24 hours a day as part of a crime monitoring system. There are 272 CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras stretching across 17 dongs – five were installed in parts of Nonhyun-dong in the past, 37 were installed just last year, and 230 were recently installed in the early half of this year.

The CCTV cameras are able to rotate a complete 360 degrees, and their zoom is powerful enough to identify license plates as far away as 100 meters.

The Gangnam CCTV Control Center located in Yeoksam-dong, Gangnam-gu will supervise all the CCTV operations. Twenty-two female monitoring agents will be overseeing the CCTV input, installed in heavy-crime areas, for 24 hours everyday. If local residents feel threatened and press the emergency button right next to the CCTV, or if a crime that is about to be committed is caught on the monitors of the control center, the location of the area will pop up in the large screen of the control center accompanied by an emergency bell, and the nearest patrol will immediately be sent to the area.

The police stated, “When we experimentally installed the CCTVs last year, the five major crimes decreased by 37 percent compared to the previous year, while robbery and larceny decreased by 41 percent. With the additional installment of surveillance cameras, there will be a greater deterrent of crime.”

“Later this year we plan to install an additional 100 CCTV cameras in the Gangnam area,” declared the police, adding, “In order to be prepared for the controversy of invasion

of privacy, we acquired the consent of two-thirds of the local residents, put up signs at the places the cameras are installed, and prepared CCTV management and operation guidelines in order to prevent the leak of taped information.”

Most of the Gangnam residents are expecting the additional cameras to reduce crime levels. Office worker Shin Wook-il, 38 years old, said, “Although there are concerns over the intrusion of privacy, I think it will have a clear effect in preventing crime. But the most important thing is how the cameras are managed.”

Choi Yoo-mi, 23 years old, said, “I don’t think what occurs at a public place can be considered as private, and I would like more cameras to be installed.” Anh Seok, 34 years old, who runs a 24-hour convenience store welcomed the new cameras, “My store is open 24 hours, and with CCTVs around my store, I feel safer.”

Nevertheless, there were concerns over the invasion of privacy.

Lee Hyun-soo, 24 years old, said, “It gives me the creeps every time I pass by a CCTV camera and someone is watching my every movement. Plus I don’t think crime will disappear just because CCTV cameras are installed in a few disclosed places.”

Oh Kum-ja, 57 years old, the owner of a grocery shop at Nonhyun-dong complained, “It feels awkward that the inside of my shop is being monitored even after I close my shop. I think I will have to do something about it, like getting curtains.”

Se-Jin Jung mint4a@donga.com