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South Korea’s Digital New Deal Implements CCTV Surveillance, Using AI Facial Recognition for COVID-19 Patients in Bucheon

They say sometimes, “you get the feeling that someone’s watching”. In today’s age, that feeling has become somewhat of an expectation. Whether be it predator drones, closed-circuit televison (CCTV) cameras, security systems, or other surveillance technologies, society has come to expect someone, or something, is always watching.

Omnidirectional surveillance allows operators to enforce security, watch out for a trespasser, and avoid public crime. Many people in a society trust those put in charge to keep watch. Mass surveillance allow individuals to feel safe, especially when alone. What happens when those surveillance entities act in the interest of the state, often against the interests of the people? Should autonomous surveillance technology be allowed to exist? Is artificial intelligence (AI) the autonomous enforcement of a predetermined artificial bias?

With manual surveillance, humans have to power to see all places at all times, provided they are present to view the monitor in which the event occurs live, or view it upon rewinding a particular segment of the footage. Surveillance operators1 work around the clock, manually watching footage in shifts2, twenty-four hours a day. This is effective, but time consuming, and often times details can be missed. What happens when the human surveillance operators are replaced with facial recognition technology, and artificial intelligence (AI)?


Bucheon, South Korea

Bucheon, South Korea, has announced3 that starting in January 2022, the city will unleash an arsenal of 10,820+ closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, which use artificial intelligence (AI), and facial recognition technologies4. The purpose of this system will be to track, record, and document the movements of any individual infected with COVID-19, as well as their close contacts, who may not be infected. The Bucheon system will also be used to ensure citizens adhere to coronavirus restrictions, such as enforcing masks. These technologies, directly comparable to the Chinese Communist Party’s existing social credit system.

Bucheon’s implementation of facial recognition technology will allowing the over ten thousand CCTV cameras to quickly determine an individual’s identity using AI. Unlike the Chinese Communist Party’s over 200 million CCTV cameras, the Bucheon system will feature 10,820+ CCTV cameras. The Ministry of Science and ICT5 (Information and Communications Technology) stated that ‘beyond the city of Bucheon, there were no plans to implement this technology across the entire country.’

According to the 110-page business plan submitted to the Ministry of Science and ICT,Bucheon’s new system will cut back on manual surveillance time, which traditionally takes an hour to trace an individual. Using artificial intelligence, the new system will be able to simultaneously track up to ten people, in under ten minutes.6 Unlike the new system, South Korea’s current contact tracing system relies on credit card records, cellphone GPS data, metadata, and CCTV footage.

South Korea’s Digital New Deal

On October 14th, 2019, the Ministry of Science and ICT (Information and Communications Technology) announced7 a Data and AI Economy 5-year Plan to “promote the development and convergence of data and AI”, explaining areas of “strategic investment for innovation-led growth” from 2019 to 2023. This plan would create 900,000 jobs8 by 2025. The digital takeover in South Korea has begun.

Specifically, the Ministry of Science and ICT stated their goals,

“5G+ Strategy: a strategy to create new industries and services based on 5G. The goals are to achieve KRW 180 trillion in production, USD 73 billion in exports and 600,000 quality jobs in 2016 by fostering 10 strategic industries and five strategic services.”

The Ministry of Science cited “(10 key industries) Network equipment, next-generation smartphones, VR and AR devices, wearable devices, intelligent surveillance cameras, (future) drones, (connected) robots, 5G V2X, information security, edge computing; (five key services) immersive content, smart factories, self-driving cars, smart cities, digital healthcare”

With the true nature of the 5G rollout revealed, AI surveillance will soon rule Bucheon, this trend appearing with increased popularity in countries throughout the world. Like the Chinese Communist Party, facial recognition, location data, and other metadata will be compiled by artificial intelligence, and stored on private virtual databases, where instances of state non-compliance can be promptly addressed.

On November 23rd, 2021 Ruling Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung echoed South Korea’s digital strategy, pledging to create over two million jobs through a “Major Digital Transformation9.” This “digital transformation” would include specialized 5G networks to power the digital infrastructure. Companies like DeepBrain AI10 have already begun their implementation of artifical intelligence into South Korean society11. The Ministry of Science and ICT added that it will also assist in the development of an open metaverse platform12.

According to the 110-page business plan submitted to the Ministry of Science and ICT from Bucheon, the surveillance technology will be able to:

  • track an infected person’s movements
  • track other individuals they had contact with
  • track whether they are wearing a mask
  • record evidence of failure to comply
  • enforce restrictions in public at all times

What Starts With COVID-19…

Although South Korean officials have stated that these technologies are implemented to enforce the safety of COVID-19, other ideas for uses using this technology may eventually emerge, after its installation. As with the nature of artificial intelligence, once the technology is used, it will begin to expand its duties. While both economically efficient, and more secure, it is also far less human. Will artificially intelligent facial recognition surveillance machines exist to uphold another entity’s vision of ‘utopia’? Or, do they exist as a guide, leading individual uncertainty towards the global salvation of humanity? Do law-abiding South Koreans deserve to have a choice in the way they choose to condone themselves?

Once surveillance cameras are installed, and A.I. has been set in effect, the system’s function won’t stop at just the monitoring of COVID-19. Existing surveillance technology run by AI, will be far easier and more efficient to implement for future law enforcement, than other measures. As more laws are passed, algorithms will be updated, forcing citizens to adhere to their conditioning. What other rules will this technology ultimately be used to enforce? As a result, how will civil liberties be regulated?


China

China is still ruled by the same Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responsible for the largest human death in global history. The oppression that Mao Zedong and his regime enforced physically, Xi Jinping has now been able to re-ignite digitally. Chinese Communist ideology is now mandated by technology under CCP rule, using artificial intelligence to enforce its own “social credit system”. Will CCTV facial recognition surveillance controlled by AI, result in drastic sociological change in South Korea? South Korea still remains vastly different than its socialist neighbor North Korea.


North Korea

Life inside the North Korean regime, is significantly different from South Korea. Unlike North Korea, South Korean citizens are allowed individual freedoms and civil rights, among other advantages:

  • North Koreans13 make over ninety-five percent (95%) less money than South Koreans
  • North Koreans have over seventy-six percent (76%) more children than South Koreans
  • North Koreans are seventy-four percent (74%) less likely to have access to electricity than South Koreans
  • South Koreans live eleven years longer than those in North Korea

By comparison, South Korea is a much more desirable place to live. This explains why although the country of South Korea is twenty-one percent (21%) smaller in land mass, it holds double the population of North Korea.


Population

As a result of the North Korean socialist regime’s extremely oppressive restrictions, reduced opportunity, and shorter life expectancy, North Korea holds half the amount of people as South Korea’s population, despite its size.

Statista.com reported14, “In 2019, South Korea had a population of about 51.71 million, while North Korea’s was about 25.25 million. The population in both countries have increased steadily over the years.”

  • China has a population15 of 1,447,613,910. With 200 million CCTV cameras, that’s essentially one CCTV camera for every seven citizens.
  • South Korea has a population16 of 51,334,598. With 10,820 CCTV cameras, that’s one CCTV camera for every 4,744 citizens. One CCTV will be monitored in every 7m area throughout Bucheon17.
  • North Korea has a population18 of 25,947,506. With an estimated19 101,570 CCTV cameras, that’s one CCTV camera for every 255 people

Many South Koreans fear their country may be changing into a digitally enforced dictatorship, as a result of COVID-19. During the pandemic, across the world many nations, including America, were able to implement ‘temporary’ socialist-influenced policies. Many mandated enforcements often removed individual liberties and invaded personal privacy, arising a national concern.


The Great Reset

Progressive ‘modern intellectuals’, like Klaus Schwab, view the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to reset society, mandating socialist-communist ideology on a global level. Although some citizen’s perspectives may align with the state’s agenda, not all citizens agree. Under a socialist-communist ideology, everyone follows the same path, no matter their decision, working towards the same destination, in benefit of the greater collective.

Collectivism is maintained by a regime, and controlled by a dictator, and all those who oppose are subjected to individual slavery. All must comply with the ideologies and individual regulations of the party, in order to exist within the collectivist society. Those who resist, even in their thoughts, are detained and removed from this ‘utopia’, where they are re-educated through various forms of primitive “work reform”. Thought crimes are treasonous in a socialist-communist society. While the rise of technology, enforcement no longer needs to happen physically. Virtually, through the global Digital Cultural Revolution, a series of algorithms allow oligarchs to program their personal private utopia, enslaving the population to forcibly act as an extension, on their behalf. Will the power of total surveillance inevitably encourage the South Korean government to become more authoritative?


Statements

Vice Minister Cho Kyeongsik

“The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly spread a ‘contactless’ culture, accelerating the digital transformation triggered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” said20 Vice Minister Cho Kyeongsik adding “The MSIT will actively support the digital transformation of developing countries by collaborating in diverse sectors, based on the achievements earned from the Digital New Deal initiative.”

Mayor Jang Deok-chun

On April 4th, Mayor Jang Deok-chun said, [translated] “There is no need to worry about personal information through AI analysis. You can understand that you’re not storing information, it’s about speeding up analysis. We understand that bucheon has already revealed its intention to purchase AI analysis studies from abroad. These areas of development have a great preemptive effect,” Mayor Jang Deok-chun said, adding, [translated] “If the public purpose is clear, it is a claim that there is no problem,”

Dr. Choi Jin-woo

[translated] “In a modern society that can be seen as a benefit of civilization gained from the development of science and technology, in a complex and uncertain world, attempts to over-make decisions that are important to algorithms can be very dangerous,” Dr. Choi, an environmental ecology research activist said. [translated] “Under the proposition of social justice and human rights, citizens should be able to monitor and control science and technology.”

Park Dae-chul

“The government’s plan to become a Big Brother on the pretext of Covid is a neo-totalitarian idea,” stated21 Park Dae-chul, a lawmaker from the People Power Party, adding It is absolutely wrong to monitor and control the public via CCTV using taxpayers’ money and without the consent from the public.”

Bucheon Official

“There is no privacy issue here as the system traces the confirmed patient based on the Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act,” a ‘Bucheon official’ told Reuters22. “Contact tracers stick to that rule so there is no risk of data spill or invasion of privacy.”


Conclusion

For South Korea, the implementation of artificially intelligent facial recognition technology through closed-circuit television cameras marks the birth of a new digital surveillance era. In what many South Koreans hope may be a revolutionary form of coronavirus protection, may ultimately be a strategy for tyrannical control. As South Korea begins implementing more totalitarian tactics, will the country’s policies begin to parallel North Korea’s socialist ideology? Will South Koreans see a drastic change in everyday society as a result of this technology and its development? Should any one entity have the power to constantly and consistently invade the privacy of the population?

As more countries around the world implement totalitarian technology— funded by the very citizens they intend to surveil—Americans can only ask themselves: “are we next?” Will this technology attempt to be established and normalized in America? Has our nation begun heading in that direction? While the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence enforces the policies of the state, who stands to advocate the rights of the people?

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