Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Radios in North Korea

One might expect North Korea to be the target of outside Korean-language stations. After all, it is one of the few despotic regimes whose survival still largely depends on myths about the country's situation and its place in the world.

[Not so long ago] If North Korean citizens purchased a radio in one of the country's hard-currency shops, which accepted foreign cash and had a wider variety of items, or when overseas, it had to be submitted to police where technicians would "fix" (disable) it, making sure its owners could only listen to ideologically wholesome programs about the deeds of their Dear Leader - Kim Jong-il.

Things started to change in the mid-1990s when the border control collapsed and crowds of refugees and smugglers began to cross the North Korean-Chinese border. Among the many goods they brought back were small radios. Unlike the 1950s-style bulky radios produced in North Korea, these new transistor radios are small and easy to hide.

A survey of North Korean defectors found that 45% had listened to a foreign broadcast prior to fleeing the North. [Among the] stations to specifically target the North Korean audience ... is Radio Free Asia (RFA), a version of Radio Free Europe that once broadcast into East Europe - the segment that targeted the former USSR was known as the Radio Liberty.

[Excerpt of an article in the Asian Times by Dr Andrei Lankov, a lecturer in the faculty of Asian Studies, China and Korea Center, Australian National University]

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