Tag Archives: North Korea

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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FEBC to blanket North Korea with 250,000 watt AM signal

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood, who notes:

New construction – a 250 kw FEBC medium wave outlet coming southwest of Seoul. BTW, FEBC currently leases at least one hour of VOA-Korean on FEBC 1188 khz Seoul.

An interview with the FEBC president on CBN News:

(Source: CBN NewsCBN News)

Communist North Korea is about to get hit with a massive new radio signal carrying the message of Christ’s love like never before.

“It’s an AM station, 250,000 watts, which will clearly cover North Korea,” said Ed Cannon, president of Far East Broadcasting Company, also known as FEBC.

For over 75 years, FEBC has been using radio signals to send the message of Jesus Christ around the world.

Cannon says this new “super station” will be erected close to the border of North and South Korea.

“We’ve secured a location on the western coast of South Korea just a few miles south of the Demilitarized Zone,” Cannon told CBN News. “It’s a perfect location because the signal goes across the ocean for a few miles and then goes right into North Korea.”

FEBC’s president says the radio signal will launch in a few months and will carry gospel programs produced from neighboring South Korea.

“The strategy of our organization is to use indigenous people in their native language to produce programming,” Cannon said. “We have a large segment of South Korean people broadcasting and we also have a number of escapees, refugees from North Korea, who’ve come to our organization.”

Cannon claims the signal will be “unblockable” by North Korea’s regime and will “reach far past the northern boundary of North Korea covering the entire country with the message of Jesus Christ.”

According to its website, FEBC’s broadcasts can be heard in 107 languages and 49 countries from 149 stations and transmitters.

“Our goal in North Korea is the same as it is in all of our other countries: to share the gospel through radio so that people will be inspired to follow Jesus Christ as their Savior,” Cannon told CBN News in an earlier interview.

North Korea is the most dangerous country in the world for Christians. Cannon says anyone caught listening to FEBC programs faces severe consequences.

“The {North Korean} refugees themselves say ‘pray for courage, pray for perseverance’ because the Christians are reaching out in ways to gather together in the Name of Christ, to pray together, to listen to the radio together, and they are willing to endure severe persecution,” Cannon told CBN News.

Each year, Open Doors USA releases their World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.

North Korea has taken the top spot for 18 years in a row.

“If Christians are discovered, not only are they deported to labor camps as political criminals or even killed on the spot, their families will share their fate as well,” Open Doors asserted on their website. “Christians do not even have the slightest space in society, on the contrary, they are publicly warned against.”

Click here to read the full article art CBN News.

Thank you for sharing this, Tracy!

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An aircraft hijacking story with “a shortwave twist”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who writes:

[A] great aircraft hijacking story with a shortwave twist….

Read the full article from NK News on the link below–the shortwave twists are here in two interesting paragraphs…

“Two fight attendants from the YS-11 eventually emerged as announcers on the “Voice of the National Salvation,” a North Korean propaganda radio station targeting South Korean audiences.”

“The station claimed to be a voice of the alleged South Korean underground Juche resistance, and thus it badly needed broadcasters who were capable of speaking polished, Seoul-style Korean.”

Take to the skies: North Korea’s role in the mysterious hijacking of KAL YS-11 | NK News – North Korea News

https://www.nknews.org/2019/03/take-to-the-skies-north-koreas-role-in-the-mysterious-hijacking-of-kal-ys-11/

Thank you, Mark. I was not aware of this story. It was too bad for those flight attendants that they had a skill the North Korea propaganda machine needed.

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An unusual 1990s reception report from North Korea

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Richard Langley, who spotted this fascinating account in The Mayo News:

Michael Commins on his remarkable communication from inside North Korea

THE Korean peninsula dominates world news coverage this week.

[…]Around 1988, after becoming engrossed in the hobby, I also bought the acclaimed Sony 2001D shortwave radio from Padraig Gilmore of Gilmore Electrical in Claremorris. Padraig was a genius when it came to radios and he also had a huge interest in shortwave listening.
I recall listening to the last broadcast of Radio Berlin and tuning in on a weekly basis to some favourite shows on The Voice of America, Radio Netherlands, Radio Havana (still broadcasting on 6000khz), Radio Prague, Radio Moscow (with their powerful transmitters on numerous frequencies), Radio Canada International, HCJB from Quito in Ecuador, Vatican Radio, and a host of the stations from around the world.

[…]On a few occasions, I managed to pick up the English language broadcast of Radio Pyongyang from North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). I posted some reception reports to them and got back their radio schedules and QSL cards as well as some cultural material.

One day in the 1990s, I received an extraordinary letter from a person at the international radio station in North Korea. It was smuggled out of the country and posted in Japan. There was no internet and no Facebook back then. Shortwave radio was the only way to get news broadcast across thousands of miles.

Today, for the first time I reveal some of the contents of the letter but am still reluctant to state the date I received the letter (which I wrote on the back of it) … just in case.

Here are some extracts:
“I am writing this letter to tell you we are tired of repeating the same programs all the year round. We may deal with fresh information when we air the news about foreign countries, but when we are told to air radio commentaries we in most cases try to search similar programs we had once aired previously.

“This is the safest way to be faithful to our duty because we are told to quote some phrases from the remarks of our Great Leader Kim II Sung or Dear Leader Kim Jong II whenever we draft the manuscript of the commentaries. This is why we have been repeating the same tones for years.

“No freedom of speech nor of association exists in my country. You will never notice any dark side of our society when you listen to our radio programs.

“The reality of my country is that the people, especially those living outside of Pyongyang are suffering from the severe shortages of food and daily commodities. They are urged to engage in the campaign to take two meals, instead of three meals, a day.

“I don’t think our closed-door policy will last forever, and sometime, in the future and all of a sudden the people will rise up against the government. I think now is the time for the intellectuals to come to the rescue of our fatherland”.

This letter has been kept safe and sound over the years, between the covers of ‘The Moscow Correspondents’, a fine book by Whitman Bassow, former Moscow Bureau Chief of Newsweek, which provides wonderful insights into the USSR over generations.[…]

Click here to read the full story at The Mayo News.

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KBS World’s latest QSL card honors the 2018 Inter-Korean summit

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF) who writes:

[Here’s a] picture of the new QSL Card from KBS World Radio dedicated to the Inter-Korean Summit that took place last April 27th.

Whoever sends a reception report to KBS will be answered with this QSL Card.

Thank you, David! You’d better believe I’ll snag one of these QSL cards. Certainly a keeper!

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VOK shifts broadcast schedule due to North Korea time zone change

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

I put up a couple of videos on my “Willow Slough DX” YouTube channel nine hours ago that may rate at least an Arte Johnson (Laugh-in) “verrry interestink”. These are two videos of the North Korean shortwave station Voice of Korea operating with their new time zone and on their new schedule.

These are the two most recent videos of SW station receptions that I have posted during the last couple of days.

[The first video] is the VOK shortwave sign-on recorded at the newly scheduled time of 04:00, May 5, 2018 UTC on 15180 kHz. Distance: 5600 miles. Receiver: Sangean ATS-909X. Antenna: suburban 83m horizontal loop. Receiver location: Davis, California, USA. North Korea has changed its time zone to match UTC +9 which is used by South Korea. I was accustomed to tuning in Voice of Korea at 38 minutes past the scheduled hour for the English language news. Now I tune in at 8 minutes past the same hour. VOK broadcasts that were scheduled for 04:30 UTC now begin at 04:00 UTC. At the time I write this VOK shortwave programs listed on Short-Wave.info still show the old times:

Click here to view on YouTube.

[The second video] is the VOK shortwave newscast at the new time of 04:08, May 5, 2018 UTC on 15180 kHz. Some interference is heard half way through the clip:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thanks for sharing this, Dan!  It never crossed my mind that VOK would change their international broadcast time based on the fact they shifted their country’s time zone. From a North Korean perspective, though, I suppose this makes sense. Thanks for the tip!

Click here to check out other recordings on Dan’s YouTube Channel.

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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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