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.[…]
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.[…]
(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.[…]
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Rawad Hamwi, who shares the following recording and notes:
I recorded today part of Voice of Korea news bulletin (english language) when they started talking about what they did regarding the detonation on a H bomb today. You know, such things don’t occur everyday and maybe the last time we heard something similar on shortwave was during the cold war era.
Here is my video:
Many thanks for sharing Rawad! These are unpredictable times indeed.
Post Readers: If you have an audio recording of this broadcast, please feel free to contact me as I would like to add it to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who writes:
A message to contacts in North Asia (Japan / Korea etc)…
North Korea is currently (right now 1430UTC) broadcasting in DRM format on 3560KHz. Listening to remote receivers in Japan I can see the signal is very strong in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas – I assume it will be strong in other parts of Japan as well. I have NOT been able to decode the DRM successfully, I have tried piping the audio to me here in my Australian location and demodulating it with a software DRM decoder – I just can’t get a lock on the signal. Do you have a DRM receiver – could you please try? If you do manage to receive the signal please don’t forget to record it!
I’m particularly interested to know if the transmissions are relays of KCBS Pyongyang, Pyongyang Pangsong or some other service. If you get a demodulated signal could you check to see if the program is parallel to KCBS Pyongyang on 2850KHz or Pyongyang Pangsong on 6400KHz.
I have a WinRadio Excalibur with DRM here in Australia, but the signal is very weak here – far too weak to lock.
Later, Mark shared the following video by “2010DFS” on YouTube:
Mark also notes that DRMNA.info is following this story very closely and suspects that the content server and or transmitter may be Chinese in origin:
NOTE: Same frequency and bitrate as the 2012 broadcasts so this may represent “Chinese assistance”. Can anyone confirm DRM equipment in Kujang?
20170902 Update: I have received anonymous details that indicate that at least the content server is of Chinese origin. Still no word on actual transmit location. Several other Japanese (and Terje in Japan) have successfully decoded these transmissions.
Being a North Korean propaganda specialist, Mark added:
At the Freeman’s Reach monitoring station the bandwidth and microwave paths in are really being tested this afternoon with the full on activity.
All plans for the afternoon and evening now cancelled! YTN (South Korea) via Intelsat, KCTV Pyongyang via Thaicom, CNN International via Foxtel, CNN USA Domestic via Sling, Korean Central Radio and Pyongyang Pansong via KiwiSDRs – Busy!
All spectrum being captured, tonight the servers will be working hard, it will keep this place warm!
Post readers: please comment if you’re able to decode any of these North Korean DRM transmissions, and/or if you have further information about these DRM broadcasts from North Korea.
UPDATE: Mark has at least confirmed that the DRM signal is a relay of the KCBS Pyongyang national service (domestic) broadcast.
(Source: News & Observer)
CARY–Even as tensions increase between North Korea and the United States (and between North Korea and the rest of the world), the Cary-based group Trans World Radio is broadcasting daily messages of hope to the people there.
TWR president and chief executive officer Lauren Libby says the group started increasing its broadcast time into North Korea about a year and a half ago.
“We could see what was coming, and we really needed to be able to respond to give people hope,” Libby said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Our goal is to speak hope in the middle of not-so-much hope.”
Every day, TWR transmits to 190 countries in 230 different languages. The Christian messages TWR broadcasts to North Korea – currently 1.5 hours each day – are produced in Asia, in the Korean language, and sent via the internet to Guam and then into North Korea through “extremely high-powered short wave transmitters” in Guam.[…]
This week, SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, was featured in the NK News for his research in North Korea. While Mark has made a wide array of his work available through a media-rich (free) iBook, this particular article focuses on the “Morning Chorus” heard throughout Pyongyang in the early hours of the morning:
(Source: NK News)
Why does an eerie electronic ballad play across North Korea’s capital every morning?
It was early in the morning, but Mark Fahey had been awake for hours. A biomedical engineer turned North Korean propaganda expert, he had spent most of the night tinkering with a radio in his room at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, secretly recording the opening moments of Pyongyang FM Pangsong.
While he listened to the station’s typical offering of classical music and propaganda, another microphone and recorder were set up next to an open window to capture the sounds of the city as it roused itself awake. It was August 2011, and the sun hung low on the horizon. Fahey expected to pick up the sound of the dredging work taking place along the Taedong River.
Instead, he heard music.
“Pyongyang is deadly silent at night,” Fahey tells NK News. “If a lorry’s just passing through the city, you’re going to hear it. It’s so quiet. And at 6 am, you hear this kind of weird…” he hesitates. “It sounds like mind control music.”
Seeking an explanation, Fahey brought the tune up with his minder.
“They didn’t know what I was talking about,” he recalls, “but I don’t actually think that means they didn’t know what it was. They probably didn’t realize that I could hear it from where I was.”[…]
The NK News article is fascinating and also includes several more video clips from North Korea media.
Also, consider downloading Mark’s interactive iBook Behind The Curtain from the Apple store by clicking here.