Category Archives: Propaganda

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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Hear My Voice: Radio’s role in Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland

In January, when I first heard about David Vaughan’s book Hear My Voice, I knew then and there I would have to read it. So I picked up a copy on Amazon with the intention of doing so…well, soon.

However, I’ve got quite a number of books in my to-be-read stack at the moment, so Hear My Voice lay in wait on my bookshelf until this past Sunday, when I decided to read the first chapter––just to get a taste of it.

Although I had a very busy day in store––working on a home renovation and making several trips into town––nevertheless I struggled to pull it from the stack, and having rapidly consumed the first chapters, had a hard time putting the book down. By the day’s end, I found I had read the entire book.

While those who know me know I’m a bit of a WWII history buff, I only knew that Hitler’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland was but a hint of what was to come. The history I’d read previously had provided a bit of insight into this crucial lead-up to the war, but not as Vaughan’s book does: in what feels like a first hand account, through the eyes of an interpreter and broadcaster. I was hooked.

Hear My Voice clearly indicates how transformative the medium of radio was in this era, and how deliberate and insidious Nazi propaganda became in the Sudetenland years before Czechoslovakia ever took notice.

All in all, it’s a great read. I think you’ll find Hear My Voice as intriguing as I did.

You can purchase Hear My Voice via:

Read our previous post which includes a Radio Prague audio interview with the author.

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Voice of Korea announces new English language schedule effective March 31, 2019

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, DanH, who writes:

For SWLing Post readers here is a YouTube reception video of VOK announcing a new shortwave schedule for the English Language Service.

Click here to view on YouTube.

The schedule is effective beginning 03:00 UTC, March 31, 2019.

Southeast Asia:

  • 05:00 – 06:00 UTC: 13650 and 15105 kHz
  • 10:00 – 11:00 UTC: 11735 and 13650 kHz

Middle East and Northern Africa:

  • 16:00 – 17:00 UTC: 9890 and 11645 kHz
  • 19:00 – 20:00 UTC: 9875 and 11635 kHz

Southern Africa:

  • 19:00 – 20:00 UTC: 7210, 11910 kHz

Central and South America:

  • 04:00 – 05:00 UTC: 11735, 13760 and 15180 kHz
  • 10:00 – 11:00 UTC: 11710 and 15180 kHz

Good luck if you like chasing VOK!

DanH

Thanks for the tip, DanH!

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David Vaughan on Czech radio and the role of propaganda leading up to WWII

Czechoslovak Radio in the mid-1930s, photo: Czech Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, John Palmer (KC8RZM), who writes:

Was listening to Radio Prague yesterday evening, there was a very interesting item where author, David Vaughan, was interviewed and talked about his most recent book “Hear My Voice” a novel which deals with the lead-up to WWII and in which Czech Radio plays a part:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

The play, on which the novel is based, was commissioned by Czech Radio and was awarded the Czech Book readers’ award for 2015. In the interview the importance of this then new technology called radio was discussed and its influence, for good or bad, in the world at large, an interesting parallel to today’s discussion on the role of the internet and social media. From the capsule bio on the book cover his background is in languages and radio (BBC and Czech Radio).

I’m sure his other book, Battle of the Airwaves: Radio and the 1938 Munich Crisis, will be of interest to shortwave listeners:

Click here to view on Amazon (affiliate link).

From the Amazon description:

“1938 was a turning point in the histories of Europe and the media. When Hitler annexed Austria and then turned his attention to Czechoslovakia, radio was at the heart of events. Battle for the Airwaves looks at the Munich crisis as it was played out on the radio stations of Czechoslovakia, Germany, Britain and the United States, and reveals just how central a role radio played in the run-up to the Munich Agreement and beyond. It is a story of propaganda and counter-propaganda, censorship and self-censorship. It is also a story of courage and innovation. Munich was a fateful step in the road to World War Two; it also marked the beginning of the age of the electronic media. Published in English and Czech in a single, illustrated, hardback volume, Battle for the Airwaves is accompanied by a CD recording of key British, Czechoslovak, German and American radio broadcasts from 1938.”

Anyway, just thought the above might be of interest to others at the SWLing Post. I’d like to learn more from him on the role of radio in those early days on the events leading up to WWII. I’m probably going to check out his novel.

Thank you so much for sharing this John! I received an Amazon gift card and have already put Hear My Voice in the cart. I look forward to reading it!

I missed the live broadcast, but did find Pavla Horáková’s interview with David Vaughan on the Czech Radio website. Here’s the introduction and audio:

Earlier this year the Czech Republic marked the 80th anniversary of the Munich Agreement, signed in September 1938 by the leaders of Germany, France, Great Britain, and Italy, resulting in the annexation of the Sudetenland by Nazi Germany. Radio Prague’s David Vaughan recently published a book in the UK titled “Hear My Voice”, most of which is set in Czechoslovakia in the months preceding the Munich agreement. Its narrator is an interpreter for the international press corps in Prague and he watches the events of 1938 unfold in Central Europe as the atmosphere is getting tenser ahead of the outbreak of the Second World War. Pavla Horáková spoke to David Vaughan and their conversation begins with a few paragraphs from the book.

Click here to download the MP3 audio of this interview.

Check out the full story and listen to the interview via Czech Radio/Radio Praha.

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Inside Radio: “Sale of Border Station Raises Chinese Propaganda Worry”

(Source: Inside Radio via Dennis Dura)

The proposed sale of an AM station along the Mexico-U.S. border to a group of Chinese investors has stoked fears that the 50,000-watt station will be used to infiltrate the U.S. with Chinese propaganda. Spanish news-talk “W-Radio 690” XEWW (690), which blankets Southern California from Tijuana, is being sold by Mexican broadcaster GLR to Chinese investment group H&H Group USA, owned by Vivian Huo, a U.S. citizen who runs the investment firm H&H Capital Partners.[…]

Click here to read the full article.

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Propaganda Shift: The Panmunjom Summit and monitoring the Voice of Korea

Front page of the North Korean newspaper “Rodong” on April 28, 2018. (Source: Mark Fahey)

With North Korea in the global spotlight, I’ve been making every effort to listen to the Voice of Korea on shortwave.  Unfortunately, from here on the east coast of North America, conditions have simply not been in my favor.

Fortunately, a couple of SWLing Post and SRAA contributors have had my back.

Yesterday, Richard Langley, uploaded a great VOK recording made with the U Twente WebSDR on April 28 at 13:30 UTC on 13760 kHz. Thank you Richard!

This morning, North Korean propaganda specialist Mark Fahey uploaded the following VOK recording to the archive and included notes and insight:

[The recording is] off 9,730 kHz so a mint shortwave file.

Recorded at the “Behind The Curtain” remote satellite and HF receiving site near Taipei, Taiwan (the site is remotely operated from Freemans Reach in Australia and was specifically established to monitor North Korean radio & television 24×7).

Remote Module #1 prior to sealing.

[Note: Click here to read about Mark’s self-contained deployable remote SDR stations.]

Remote Module #2 fully weather sealed and ready to deploy.

[…]I must say getting a good recording off shortwave is quite a challenge, just going to their satellite circuits far easier!

[T]he reason for the almost hi-fi quality is that I used the real-time audio enhancement and noise reduction techniques I presented at the Winter SWL Fest. The signal in reality was much noisier:

Click here to download an MP3 copy of the off-air recording.

[I] also have long domestic recordings (which is what I have been focusing on rather than VOK).

[…]Of course domestic in Korean – but that has been my main interest/monitoring – what does the regime say to the domestic audience–?

They seem quite serious (I mean genuine) even acknowledging South Korea as a separate place and Moon being the president of this place. The domestic propaganda now not hiding the fact that South Korea is a separate sovereign nation, which is very un-North Korean propaganda!

The news is still kind of breaking in North Korea and the radio reflects that – the reports sound like Friday was yesterday. It takes a long time for North Korean media to report anything, so news from 3 days ago is presented as if it only happened 3 hours ago.

Also since it’s all topical I will include a YouTube link to a Voice Of Korea Documentary (propaganda to our ears of course–!) that has recently been posted to the Arabia Chapter of The Korean Friendship Association:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

Thank you, Mark! Certainly history in the making.

Mark Fahey is my go-to guy for what’s really happening in North Korea, especially with regards to the message the government shares with its people.

Though I haven’t asked him in advance, I’m sure Mark can follow the comments thread of this post and answer your North Korea questions.

Click here to leave a comment/question or follow the comments thread.

If you have a recording of VOK (or any other broadcaster) that you would like to share, consider contributing to the SRAA.

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“Soap operas and short-wave radio” punch through North Korea’s armour

(Source: GlobalNews.ca)

One of the BBC’s newest radio stations began broadcasting across the Korean peninsula on Tuesday. And the signal was almost immediately jammed by the North Korean government, according to news reports.

[…]But cracks are appearing in the system. InterMedia, a research firm, interviewed defectors from North Korea and found that 48 per cent of them had seen foreign DVDs and 27 per cent had listened to foreign radio, according to a 2013 report.

Defectors aren’t exactly unbiased sources or representative of the North Korean population – they’re people who hated the regime enough to risk their lives fleeing it and who were able to do so – but such surveys are one of the only ways to learn about North Korean television viewing habits.

Some defectors have reported that what they saw in foreign media influenced their decision to leave, according to Williams.

“I think it’s just spreading dissatisfaction, cracking the government’s complete control of information which is one of the central parts of the entire system. If you start to crack away at that then you start to crack away at the system as a whole,” he said.

[…]Although it’s illegal to watch foreign media, many people watch these DVDs or USB sticks filled with movies and South Korean TV shows. South Korean soap operas are popular, said Williams, and are more seditious than romance and melodrama might seem at first glance.

[…]Radios sold in North Korea are modified so they can only tune in to certain frequencies – government-operated North Korean stations, of course. But people do illegally “jailbreak” their radios, says Reporters Without Borders. They can then listen to South Korean stations near the border, or to shortwave foreign broadcasts like the BBC’s and similar ones from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

“North Korea does its best to stop the broadcasts coming in but it is the only way that exists at the moment to get current information into the country,” said Williams.[…]

Read this full article at GlobalNews.ca.

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