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North Korea to use facial recognition system at airport, state media says

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea to use facial recognition system at airport, state media says
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) visiting Pyongyang Sunan International Airport in 2015 with first lady Ri Sol Ju (L). File Photo by Rodong Sinmun/EPA

Jan. 25 (UPI) -- North Korea is strengthening surveillance at its international airport in Pyongyang with the installment of a facial recognition system, according to propaganda outlets.

North Korean propaganda site Maeari stated Friday Pyongyang International Airport will be under real-time surveillance, and monitors will be set up at "airport entrances."

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The facial recognition technology will "quickly recognize people's faces accurately," Maeari stated.

Real-time surveillance will be made possible by "high-performance computers loaded with special programs."

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Facial recognition systems work by comparing selected facial features from a given image with faces within a database. The technology is being increasingly used in neighboring China, where street-side cameras monitor pedestrians and schools track student attendance using facial recognition.

On Friday, North Korea claimed the technology was domestically developed at Kim Il Sung University's science research institute, and that the system can detect the age and gender of a person based on facial features.

"It only takes a second for the automatic face recognition system to identify the sex and age of a person," Maeari stated, adding the technology is being used in North Korean "state institutions," including hospitals, stores and other public places.

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North Korea is stepping up state monitoring of its population and visitors at a time when it is engaging the United States with promises of denuclearization.

Relatively unknown but increasingly important negotiators are participating in the talks.

Radio Free Asia reported Thursday Kim Hyok Chol, a former ambassador, accompanied the top North Korean negotiator to Washington last week, and is a nuclear and military expert.

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Kim was in charge of military affairs as part of the North Korean mission to Geneva, according to the report.

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