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[Opinion] Closed Circuit Surveillance

Posted April. 19, 2006 02:59,   


It cost about 30 million won from the budget to protect General MacArthur’s statue at Incheon Freedom Park. The city administration office set up surveillance cameras due to attempts by radical groups to vandalize the statue. Surveillance cameras were also installed by Major General Park Jung-hee’s statue at Seoul Mullae Park, after continuous damage occurred there. In the 1980s, after anti-government Korean students uprooted the tree planted by former President Chun Doo-hwan, the Korean consulate general in Hawaii even considered setting up a CCTV next to the tree. However, that was reported by the foreign media, and the plans were disbanded because Korea might be seen in the eyes of foreigners as a ridiculous dictatorship country.

After the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has been upgrading the surveillance cameras of its major cities into higher quality ones. The improved cameras can zoom to far distances, making it possible to discern distant objects. Thousands of high-resolution cameras have been newly installed in areas in Washington D.C. and Chicago. Any Melbourne citizen is said to be recorded on average 100 times per day by the omnipresent cameras. Bank ATMs, parking lots, department stores, subway stations, airports, public toilets, surveillances cameras on poles, everywhere people go, are under surveillance.

The U.K. has about 4.2 million cameras installed in public spots. The police operate about 40,000 anti-crime cameras, and urbanites are recorded on camera on average every 30 seconds. There are complaints arising that cameras not only infringe on private life but that they cannot offer protection from terrorism. However, during last year’s July 7 terrorist attacks in Britain, it was the surveillance cameras that identified the culprits only six days after the attacks. Hence, British police countered that at least the cameras aided in identifying the terrorists.

A resident living at a residential office building in Guro-gu, Seoul tore off a surveillance camera and was charged for special larceny. He defended himself, “I tore it off while I was drunk because I thought my private life was being seen. I was planning to return it the next day to the management office.” Due to occasional scandals of hidden cameras, the number of people suffering from delusion that they are being watched by someone is also increasing. The only way is to accept the fact that you are being recorded, although it maybe unpleasant, and be nonchalant about it. It is the sad reality that people of today cannot be free from surveillance under the trap of crime prevention.

Kim Chung-sik, Editorial Writer, skim@donga.com