Category Archives: Clandestine

Despite crackdown, North Koreans seek foreign radio broadcasts

(Source: DailyNK via Andrea Borgnino)

North Koreans continue to seek out foreign radio despite crackdown

Police in North Korea have recently focused their attention on cracking down on listeners of South Korean radio broadcasts in another sign of the government’s dual-approach to warming ties with the South, according to a source inside the country.

Speaking from Ryanggang Province on April 24, a source told Daily NK that “police have begun inspections of households possessing radios,” explaining that one method used to restrict radio usage includes applying stickers to the tuning buttons to prevent users from finding foreign broadcasts.

State-approved radios in North Korea are fixed to prevent tuning to non-official stations, but the authorities have used additional methods in recent times to handle the increasing amount of personal radios in the country. In addition to radio controls, authorities also place heavy restrictions on DVD players, phones, televisions, and other media devices.[…]

Continue reading the full article at the DailyNK.

Going By the Numbers

For those who follow numbers stations or, like me, enjoy seeing articles about numbers stations, below are a few paragraphs from a recent article in Radio World by author James Careless:

“6-7-9-2-6. 5-6-9-9-0.” Tune across the shortwave bands (above AM/MW), and chances are you will come across a “numbers station.” There’s no programming to speak of; just a mechanical-sounding voice (male or female) methodically announcing seemingly random groups of single digit numbers for minutes on end.

Congratulations! You are now officially a spy-catcher, to the extent that you may have tuned into a spy agency’s “numbers station” transmitting one-way instructions to their minions worldwide.

Numbers stations are unidentified radio broadcasts that consist usually of a mechanical voice “reading out strings of seemingly random numbers,” explained Lewis Bush, author of “Shadows of the State” a new history of numbers stations and the spies who run them. “These are sometimes accompanied by music, tones or other sound effects.” He said. “There are also related stations broadcasting in Morse Code and digital modes.”

The article goes into some of the history of numbers stations, but also talks about modern stations from all over the world. A worthwhile read for those so interested!

Do Shortwave ‘Numbers Stations’ Really Instruct Spies?

Cheers! Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

“Go after North Korea with sanctions and short-wave radio”

(Source: Yahoo News)

Key GOP Lawmaker: Go after North Korea with sanctions and short-wave radio

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R.-Calif., called Wednesday for tough new sanctions on Chinese banks that do business with North Korea. Royce also said the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang has been losing its totalitarian grip on a population increasingly getting information from short-wave radio and contraband South Korean movies.

Royce said in an interview with Yahoo News on Sirius XM POTUS Channel 124 that he had met with a top North Korean defector who played up the impact of communications from the outside world as a way to pressure the government of Kim Jong Un.

“He told me that the one thing really shaking the resolve of people across North Korea is the information that’s coming in on two short-wave [radio stations] run by defectors,” Royce said. “They’re telling people what’s really going on in North Korea and in the outside world.”

The defector, Royce recalled, said, “You should help amp that up and get that all across the country.”

Voice of America and Radio Free Asia — descendants of Cold War-era information warfare — currently broadcast 10 hours per day of short- and medium-wave radio into North Korea, according to a congressional aide. And Congress doubled their Korean-language programming for the year ending Oct. 1 to $6 million, where it will stay for the next fiscal year, the aide said.[…]

Continue reading at Yahoo News…

Radio Erena: “a symbolic lifeline” to Eritrea

(Source: The Guardian)

[Radio Erena founder, Biniam Simon, writes:] “You have to understand: Eritrea is completely closed. No information is available there at all, about the outside world or what is going on internally. So if you’re an Eritrean journalist, and you make it to a place where so much information is available, the first thing you think is: why not tell people all this? It was the obvious thing to do.”

[…]The station broadcasts a two-hour programme in Arabic and Tigrinya seven days a week, repeating it several times a day, giving listeners inside Eritrea multiple opportunities to listen (they may do so, in the privacy of their own homes with the shutters closed and the sound turned down, only when electricity is available – which it often isn’t). As well as news about what the regime may be up to, it provides a detailed picture of what is happening to the refugees who are travelling to Europe – when a boat carrying 360 Eritreans capsized off Lampedusa in 2013, a correspondent was immediately dispatched to Italy – as well as features about diaspora success stories, footballers and athletes among them.

It runs smoothly. There is always a lot to tell. Making sure it can be picked up in Eritrea, however, remains a constant struggle. In 2012, the government managed to block it – seemingly unbothered by the fact that in doing so, it also blocked its own television channel (both broadcast on one satellite frequency). It has also successfully jammed it on shortwave, and on at least one occasion has hacked into the Radio Erena website, destroying it completely. “It’s a nonstop challenge,” he says. “We’re constantly fighting them, and it’s getting harder and harder because they are now employing new experts from China and Indonesia.”

But if this is exhausting, it’s also hugely encouraging: “It means that what we’re doing is working. We know this because the government wants us to stop.”[…]

Readers: this is only an excerpt from this excellent article in The Guardian. Click here to read the full article.

Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.