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.[…]
The BBC’s new Korean-language service is being “aggressively targeted” by North Korean jamming of its broadcasts.
The service was launched on Monday and delivers a mixture of global news, sport and radio features to the whole of the Korean Peninsula for a three-hour window that starts at midnight local time.
Broadcasts are going out on two shortwave frequencies, from Taiwan and Tashkent, while the hour-long segment from 1am is relayed on medium wave from Mongolia, according to a report on the 38 North web site, operated by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
“As listening to foreign radio is illegal, the government makes a great effort to prevent people from doing so”, the report states. “At the most basic level, it modifies radios so they cannot be tuned to anything but state-run channels, although that can be later reverse engineered.
[…]The BBC broadcasts are going out after midnight, which will make it easier for listeners with access to short wave to tune in secretly.
North Korea has been from the beginning of March continually signal jamming radio broadcasts on the shortwave frequency used by the South Korean non-profit broadcaster Unification Media Group (UMG). Given the present situation, in which North Korean residents might be influenced by outside information condemning the regime and explaining the purpose of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the regime has showed the will to block sources of outside information that might cause unrest.
The shortwave frequency […] in question, 7515 [kHz], has been actively jammed starting on March 1st making it extremely difficult for North Korean listeners to tune in. On the 15, UMG organization began using three receivers to test out reception at that and adjacent frequencies on a daily basis and was able to confirm that the exact signal is being jammed.
The blocking effort is being concentrated on the time period from 10pm- midnight. Specifically, from 10-11pm the jamming is very strong. The signal jamming is undetectable from midnight to 1am. The signal blocking became weaker at midnight on March 15, from which point onward the entire three hour broadcast was audible. Starting on the 17, UMG moved the frequency, but the jamming operators seemed not to notice because the interference continued on the old wavelength.