Thursday, June 19, 2014

Korean Radio Propaganda Extravaganza

Too little hay is made of radio propaganda outside wartime. Some consider the rhetorical bluster of the increasingly marginalized Rush Limbaugh "propaganda."  I'm not interested in that tonight.  I want to narrow the focus to radio propaganda following the cessation of military conflict: post-war radio propaganda. Think of Germany and Japan Post-WWII, Vietnam, Korea.. etc. But much as we and our post-war adversaries continued to broadcast questionable political material throughout the cold war, there are certainly other guilty parties who engage in the same activities following the end of other wars that didn't really have anything to do with the U.S. In other words: America isn't always the source or the target of radio propaganda.

*For ease of use, I'm going to refer to South Korea as ROK (Republic of Korea) and North Korea as DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea.) I do note with some irony that North Kora is neither a republic nor democratic, but acronyms are expedient.

In the US what we call the Korean War or military action that was waged from June of 1950 through July of 1953 was both a civil war between the ROK and DPRK and also a  proxy conflict between the US and soviets in the Cold War. China and Japan have their own opinions as well. They have been at war with or the property of one or more of their neighbors since at least 1894.. which is to say they are no strangers to propaganda.

Only days ago the ROK "resumed" broadcasting propaganda across the DMZ. [Source] But even whether this is new ongoing is a politicized topic. Sources sympathetic to the DPRK state that broadcasts restarted back in May. Further specifying that the broadcasts stopped in 2004 after the "inter-Korean friendship accord" what the ROK called the "Sunshine Policy" but broadcasts resumed in 2010.

The station in question, Voice of Freedom (VOF) transmits on both FM and shortwave. While the FM signals Probably only reach a few miles into DPRK territory, shortwave signals travel much further. Voice of Freedom is produced in Seoul and then relayed via the military’s Mungunghwa 5 satellite to six FM transmitters along the DMZ.  The DPRK responded at first with low tech jamming and has ramped that up to white noise and multi-pulse jamming. VOF is presently broadcasting FM to the DMA on 101.7 MHz, 103.1 MHz, 107.3 MHz and on Shortwave at 6135 kHz. Comically one of it's DJs has a blog here. (I really hope that's real.)
The tradition of blasting radio propaganda at each other begins more-or-less with the establishment of the demilitarized zone along the divided along the 38th parallel, later along the demarcation line. That was in 1945 after the end of WWI. Anna Wallis Suh (aka Seoul City Sue) began announcing for the DPRK on "Radio Seoul" from HLKA studios daily in 1950. She later joined the staff of Radio Pyongyang a powerhouse of DPRK propaganda since about 1945. that station has it's origins in AFRN station JBBK.That station now operates as Voice of Korea (VOK) which broadcasts on AM, FM Shortwave and on the Thaicom 5 satellite.  Also notable is the unsanctioned South Korean pirate radio group Free North Korea (FNK). Since 2004 this mix of geeks and defectors have produced  pre-recorded 30 minute propaganda programs broadcast illicitly to radios dropped inside the DPRK by balloon.