From march, next year, a prison from Pohang is going to have robotic wardens for a month as South Korea is working to become a world leader in robotic technology. The Ministry of Justice is sponsoring the project, which will cost close to one billion dollars.
The robot will have to monitor the institution at night, analyze situations and report to human guards any unusual behavior of the inmates. They can also be used for communication in extreme emergencies when prisoners want to get in touch with the guards.
The person in charge of the project is Prof. Lee Baik-chul of Kionggy University. He said that “Unlike CCTV that just monitors cells through screens, the robots are programmed to analyze various activities of those in prison and identify abnormal behavior”.
When it comes to the reaction of the prisoners, Mr. Lee is concerned, but currently is having its engineers work on the robots in order to make them more human-friendly. Talking about the reaction of inmates, he said that “robots are not terminators. Their job is not cracking down on violent prisoners. They are helpers. When an inmate is in a life-threatening situation or seriously ill, he or she can reach out for help quickly”.
This billion dollar investment is the latest one the Government of South Korea has made in order have its robotic industry developed. According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, the country has spent on this kind of research, between 2002 and 2010, more than $641m. Over the last two years, the industry has grown with about 75 percent and it is worth over 1.5 billion dollars.