The Third Network: Investigating North Korea’s infamous cable radio

Photo by Chad O’Carroll (@chadocl via Twitter)

The NK News has published an article about North Korea’s “Third Network”: the infamous cable network radio installed in many homes and that, some report, cannot be turned off.

This article tries to separate fact from fiction and turns to SWLing Post friend, Mark Fahey, among other North Korea experts:

The North Korean radio you can never turn off: fact or fiction?

Rumors have persisted for years, but how true they are remains up for debate

Eric Lafforgue discovered the radio in September 2011, on the wall of a farmhouse north of Hamhung.

Although small and austere, with just a speaker and a turquoise dial for volume control, the device stood out for two reasons: firstly, it looked cemented to the wall and secondly, his guide told him that “people cannot turn off the system.”

The French photographer would later post an image of the device on Flickr, where it remains one of the few pieces of photographic evidence of a uniquely North Korean twist on public address systems typical to the region.

Instead of issuing intermittent earthquake and tsunami warnings, however, this network is alleged to broadcast regime propaganda into citizen’s homes day and night without respite.

In some ways, the existence of this type of radio would be in keeping with what we know about the North Korean media landscape.

All television, radio and internet content is strictly censored by the state and suffused with propaganda glorifying the exploits of the state and its economic successes.

And a walk down the streets of any North Korean city will inevitably bring you into contact with a wide variety of posters exhorting greater personal sacrifice for the regime, praising its achievements or damning its enemies.

These are vivid displays often accompanied by motivational music and state announcements pumped daily into streets through public loudspeakers.

Even so, while these manifestations of North Korean propaganda are well-known to even casual observers of the country, visual evidence for the radio system described by Lafforgue remains scant.

In all his own trips to the DPRK, Mark Fahey has never seen any such device in person, and not for any lack of trying.

“I’ve been looking in every single room, in every single building I’ve been in,” Fahey, an expert on North Korean propaganda, tells NK News.

Others have been luckier. During filming for the documentary “A State of Mind” in 2004, footage was captured of a device similar to Lafforgue’s on the wall of a Pyongyang apartment.

“State radio is piped to every kitchen in the block,” a voiceover explains. “Listeners can turn the volume down, but not off.”[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at NK News.

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7 thoughts on “The Third Network: Investigating North Korea’s infamous cable radio

  1. Victor

    Oh, those Americans! There is nothing unusual about these loudspeakers. In Russia, exactly the same as in North Korea loudspeakers. And why only “propaganda”? They simply broadcast the main state radio program, that’s all that is needed for such a loudspeaker. In the USSR, by the way, a huge number of excellent radio programs sounded on the state radio. Against their background, the memories of propaganda somehow disappear. And where is no propaganda? Does anyone really believe that there is no propaganda in America? Does anyone need to prove that any advertising of goods and various public organizations is essentially propaganda? Or that advertising low-quality cheese no better than advertising the Communist Party? ? These “radio points”, as we called them, are good at their low prices and lack of power sources. Even during the Second World War, “radio points” worked in besieged Leningrad. With their help, the population received warnings about air raids and shelling. News were broadcast and morale-supporting radio programs were broadcast. Perhaps Goebbels’s propaganda also wrote something similar to what is now being written in the “free world” press about North Korea.
    Everyone can see that the radio receiver is plugged into the outlet by the connector, and in addition it has a volume control and at the same time speculations about the impossibility of disconnecting are being exaggerated. Funny to read such nonsense, honestly!

  2. RonF

    Interesting stuff! While I knew of the Soviet wired “radio” systems and the Rediffusion wired radio & TV networks in the UK and elsewhere, I’d only heard about the DPRK “Third Network” as a public PA system, not as a system piped into individual houses.

    I was also surprised to learn only recently of 3SA, a piped community “radio” station that ran in St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia from 1954 until 2010.


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