Korea: Cameras to Watch Subway Passengers

Seoul has installed surveillance cameras on all subway trains running on line 7 to fight crime, officials said Sunday. They will begin operating Monday.

According to Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp., which operates subway lines 5, 6, 7, 8 in the capital, two surveillance cameras were installed in each of the 504 carriages running on line 7.

'The measure is to protect passengers from criminals and disorderly people. We will consider installing such cameras on trains running on other lines based on public opinion,' a corporation spokesman said.

Civic activists have voiced concerns about possible privacy violation, but Seoul City said it will expand the use of cameras to prevent crimes.

Drivers will be able to see real-time images from the cameras. The images will also be transmitted to the subway control center so that it can stop the train should an emergency occur. All recordings will be automatically deleted after 30 days.

The corporation said it will monitor the cameras only if trouble occurs.

'There have been a number of passengers complaining that crimes occurring on trains are not properly dealt with due to lack of crackdowns and precautionary measures,' the official said.

Previously, surveillance cameras were only installed at subway stations and platforms.

Seoul Metro, which operates lines 1-4, also plans to put cameras on the more than 350 carriages running on line 2. Seoul City will decide later this year on whether to set up cameras on all subway trains running in the capital.

Officials expressed hope that the installation of cameras will help prevent various types of crimes occurring on the subway.

'In particular, we can respond to theft and sexual harassment more quickly and more effectively. We can also counter disorderly passengers quickly as well,' said an official from the city government. 'When it comes to sexual crimes, prevention is much more important than punishment.'

Human rights groups say the surveillance cameras could be effective in countering crime, but could also be used to monitor certain passengers, impinging on their privacy.

Public opinion is divided. Lee Jung-han, a 23-year-old office worker, said he would feel uncomfortable being watched.

'I don't think it's a good idea to install cameras on trains. I don't feel good about it because I think they treat me as if I'm a potential criminal,' Lee said.

Sohn Hui-jin, a 37-year-old housewife with two children, said she welcomes the measure because it could help prevent crime.

'A subway train is not a safe place for women and children. They are exposed to greater risks late at night and during rush hours,' Sohn said. 'I think the cameras will help reduce crime on trains.'

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