Radio ownership in DPRK

From Daily NK:
Only Job in the World… North Korea, ‘Person Who Removes Fuses on Radios’
Ha Tae Kyoung, Open Raido for North Korea

In order to stop the inflow of foreign information entering North Korea, irrespective of how a person obtained a radio, they must report ownership to the People’s Safety Agency (police). This radio is then locked onto North Korea’s official and only broadcasting channel. To fixate the channel the solder is completely removed. So to speak, the only radio station that North Koreans can legitimately listen to is this fixated broadcast.

The majority of the time, this radio station broadcasts songs about the leader and as a result is very boring. Even the TV like the radio is uninteresting as it is fixated on one channel and similarly broadcasts songs about the leader. However, this is not to say that there are many books in North Korea. A defector from Pyongyang once said that there are only 3 bookstores in Pyongyang. Even at these bookstores there are few books and of the few, the books are related to Kim Il Sung propaganda. Furthermore, tapes, movies and drama DVD’s are scarce. No wonder North Korean people find it difficult to spend their leisure times pleasantly.

Recently, the number of people listening to foreign radio programs during their leisure times has increased. Firstly, in order to listen to foreign radio programs the wires fixed onto the radio frequency must be removed. Thus experts are called to open the fuses and as a result, this job is becoming more and more popular. To remove the fuses it costs about North Korean 18,000won. This roughly converts to US$6~7. Taking into consideration that an official North Korean public servant earns about 2~3,000won ($0.67~1) a month, this is a substantial amount.

The reason that the fee is this expensive is not because of high technical skills that are involved in opening the fuses but because of the risk that leads to punishment. Lately in North Korea if a person is caught listening to foreign broadcasts, not only is the radio confiscated but the person is sentenced to 1~3months of forced labor. Compared to the past where people were sent to gulags, the punishment has eased dramatically. One of the reasons that punishment has eased is because of the increasing number of listeners to foreign radio.

Nonetheless the punishment for a person who opens fuses would undoubtedly be significantly greater than a person who listens to the radio. Hence the fee to remove the fuses continues to rise.

When will the day come where North Korea will be able to freely listen to foreign radio programs? Would change come during the time Kim Jong Il is in power? The more desirable condition would be where North Korean people can freely listen to foreign radio programs and the job of removing fuses vanishes. If this case is difficult to achieve in the near future, accordingly it would be better to anticipate North Korean authorities alleviating the punishment on people listening to foreign radio broadcasts. Then, at least the fee of removing fuses would substantially reduce.


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