20% of North Koreans in China report listening to foreign broadcasts

That is the claim in this Wall Street Journal article:

North Koreans willing to tamper with their government radios or buy a $3 radio smuggled in from China have a wide range of choices. Over a dozen radio stations from the United States, South Korea and Japan currently broadcast to North Korea. Voice of America (VOA), one of the most popular stations, has been broadcasting to the North since 1942, while the equally popular Radio Free Asia (RFA) began its Korean service soon after its establishment by Congress in 1997. VOA focuses on news of the U.S. and the world, while RFA concentrates on North Korea and life for the nearly 20,000 defectors in the South.

North Korean defectors themselves have also created three stations in recent years, led by Free North Korea Radio (FNK Radio). These stations employ stringers in North Korea who communicate by cell phone or smuggle out interviews through China. As a result, information is flowing in and out of the North more rapidly than ever. For example, when authorities undertook major economic reforms in 2002, it was months before the rest of the world knew. In contrast, when the regime launched a disastrous currency reform in November, FNK Radio filed a report within hours.

It’s impossible to count how many North Koreans listen to these stations, but there is anecdotal evidence the numbers are significant. For starters, on dozens of occasions, authorities in Pyongyang have used their own media to attack foreign broadcasters. The North reserves the insult “reptile” exclusively for foreign broadcasters. Last month, the regime likened defector broadcasters to “human trash.” Ironically, this diatribe also contained the first official mention that the botched currency revaluation had taken place. Foreign broadcasters not only struck a nerve, but also forced the regime to discuss developments it would prefer to ignore. If the broadcasts were not being listened to, the regime would ignore them instead of lavishing free publicity.

Meanwhile, broadcasters to North Korea frequently receive heartbreaking messages of thanks from North Koreans in China. One listener on RFA’s Web site described RFA as “our one ray of hope.” Over the past several years, South Korean researchers have quietly interviewed thousands of North Korean defectors, refugees, and visitors to China about their listening habits. One unpublished survey conducted last summer of North Koreans in China found that over 20% had regularly listened to the banned broadcasts, and almost all of them had shared the information with family members and friends. Several earlier studies confirm these findings.

I am not sure which “unpublished study” makes this claim so I can’t evaluate the findings. 

A Haggard and Noland survey of North Korean refugees claimed that a majority had listened to foreign broadcasts.

I do not believe these numbers reflect the listening habbits of North Koreans still in North Korea.

Read the full story here:
North Korea’s Radio Waves of Resistance
Wall Street Journal
Peter Beck
4/14/2010

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  • Armin

    20% of North Koreans in China does not mean 20% North Koreans in North Korea…even 0.1% (around 21.000 people) would be wishful thinking…

  • That is true…I will change the title of the post…


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