Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares his radio log art of a recent Voice of Korea broadcast.
Announcement of the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by the DPRK, via KCBS Pyongyang, domestic radio service from DPRK, broadcasting in Korean, listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, shortwave frequency of 11680 kHz.
Announcement of the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by the DPRK, via Voice of Korea, broadcasting in English from Kujang, North Korea, listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, shortwave frequency of 12015 kHz.
Announcement of the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by the DPRK, via Voice of Korea, broadcasting in Spanish from Kujang, North Korea, listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, shortwave frequency of 12015 kHz.
Of course, who really knows? North Korea isn’t public about any of their activities, so we rely on information from enthusiasts who have taken it upon themselves to investigate and confirm. Johnson assumed, “The most likely use [of DRM] would be as an audio feed to other stations and sites.” He used Radio New Zealand’s DRM service as an example, but I felt this to be unlikely with North Korea who doesn’t seem to use FM, MW, or shortwave relay sites in other parts of the world.
Fortunately, our friend Mark Fahey is an expert on North Korean media, broadcasts, and propaganda. Mark is the author and curator of the dynamic Behind The Curtain project.
I reached out to Mark via text message regarding North Korea’s use of DRM. Here’s what Mark shared with me earlier this week. This roughly follows the string of messages we exchanged.
[October 3, 2022] I have been turning into the North Korean DRM today on the new reported frequency in the [Red Tech] magazine: 6140kHz, though it’s not VOK, it’s a relay of 819kHz Pyongyang.
This service is called KCBS – Korean Central Broadcasting Service – it’s the main domestic service that is available on MW (a few FM outlets) and domestic SW across North Korea.
I will grab an audio ID off DRM for you at the top of the next hour – 0100 UTC. The DRM broadcast is only running one audio stream. It’s ACC audio 14.56kbps. As for purpose, maybe to feed the national AM relays, but also could be for North Korean ships, etc.
The other DRM frequency of 3205kHz is not on the air at the moment. I will check for it over the next 24hrs etc.
I just recorded the top of the hour. It was going in and out of DRM sync – I will send it now. I will grab a better sample tonight when there is a darkness path. The sun is well up in Pyongyang & Sydney at the moment (Noon Sydney – 10AM North Korea). Here is the Top Of The Hour ID from 10 minutes ago…
KCBS 6140 kHz (October 3, 2022)
I will record the station opening as well tomorrow morning – this domestic service also has an interval signal (the same tune as VOK–the first bars of “The Song (Hymn) of Kim Il Sung”). The opening is at 2000 UTC.
[October 4, 2022] OK here you go: both audio files (one from 6140kHz and the other from 3205kHz) are just from minutes ago as KCBS Pyongyang signed on. The signals go in and out of DRM lock here and this morning 3205kHz was the better–displayed at SNR at 13dB but still the DRM signal was breaking up.
Both DRM transmitters are running the same program: the main MW national service as heard on 819kHz in Pyongyang.
So I’m sure this DRM has nothing to do with the Voice Of Korea and is for domestic purposes.
I actually do not think it has anything to do with feeding remote transmitters as the DPRK has fibre and microwave links already in place for that purpose. I myself think it’s more likely intended for North Korean fishing vessels, navy, merchant shipping etc. But of course, nobody truly knows!
KCBS 3205 kHz (October 4, 2022)
KCBS 6140 kHz (October 4, 2022)
Thank you so much for your recordings and insight, Mark!
As I mentioned, Mark has a massive DPRK audio repository on his website Behind The Curtain. These are recordings you simply can’t find anywhere else, including hours of pristine Pyongyang FM recorded on a CC-Crane Witness Mark personally smuggled into Pyongyang.
In fact, the above photo is the CC Witness in Mark’s hand overlooking central Pyongyang.
Mark told me that the CC Witness was ideal–he used it on a number of content gathering trips to North Korea as it resembled an MP3 player or dictation recorder rather than a radio. Since it wasn’t suspected as being a radio recording device, it passed through the North Korean border each time without incident.
It’s an understatement to say that Mark took a number of risks to gather North Korean media from “Behind the Curtain.” Thank you, again, Mark, for sharing this info about DPRK DRM broadcasts.
Hi there, a good friend of mine Mr Thomas Brogan mentioned to me recently that his little Tecsun PL-310ET was proving to be an excellent receiver and that it would suit my DXpedition activities. Now, as someone who likes to push the envelope of performance with sophisticated portables, usually coupled to very large antennas, a cheap little Tecsun might not have been an abvious choice for my next purchase. However, Mr Brogan (who has an excellent Youtube channel by the same name – check out his wonderful collection of vintage and modern receivers) previously suggested I buy, for similar reasons, the Sony ICF-SW100. That little masterpiece of electronics turned out to be one of the best receivers I’ve ever owned. I felt compelled to take notice because Tom never gets this stuff wrong! A few days later I found myself in Maplins – again – and there it was on the shelf at just under £40, so I bought one.
I got back into shortwave listening about 18 months ago, after many years of inactivity whilst my poor Sangean ATS-803A rotted away in the garden shed and Sony ICF-7600G long-gone via eBay. To start all over again, I bought a Tecsun PL-360. What a great little portable that turned out to be – there are over 100 reception videos on my YouTube channel demonstrating how it continually performed above and beyond the very modest price tag. I even managed to hear ABC Northern Territories 4835 kHz on it once – simply amazing for a receiver under £30. Given my extensive experience with the PL-360 and having learned the PL-310ET shared the same DSP chip, I was expecting the same, or at least very similar performance and the only real benefit to upgrading to the PL-310ET was the direct frequency access. However, I was wrong about that!
The brilliant Tecsun PL-360 got me back into shortwave radio for less than £30
About a week after buying the PL-310ET, I managed to get out on a DXpedition and with 30 metres of wire attached to it via the external antenna socket, I started tuning around the SW bands. Quite simply, I was amazed at the sensitivity and selectivity of this diminutive little portable. With the proven DSP receiver chip and a number of audio bandwidth filter options from 1 to 6 kHz, coupled with direct frequency access via the keypad, it was a joy to use and listen to. In just over an hour I had copied signals from North Korea, including their internal service KCBS Pyongyang, Zanzibar BC, ABC Northern Territories (at the first attempt!), Zambia NBC Radio 1, Radio Oromiya and Radio Amhara from Ethiopia, amongst others. Brilliant stuff and clearly demonstrating that the overall hardware/software package with the PL-310ET is a step up in performance over the PL-360 and capable of proper DX for a very modest outlay. Interestingly, in a conversation with Thomas Witherspoon regarding the PL-310ET, he reminded me that it was one of his go-to radios for travelling and confirmed it’s excellent performance. I would definitely recommend this radio to novices and experts alike.
Reception videos follow below, with more to come in part 2; I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for watching/listening and I wish you all excellent DX!
Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.
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