Archive for the ‘Radio’ Category

EU backs radio broadcasts into DPRK, RoK backs VOA

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Several foreign organizations are broadcasting radio content into North Korea: Free North Korea Radio, Open Radio for North Korea, Radio Free Chosun, Voice of America and  Radio Free Asia.   

According to Yonhap, the EU government and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are throwing financial support behind FNKR, ORNK, and RFC:

The European Union (EU) and an international group of journalists forged a deal on Tuesday to provide 400 million won (US$290,000) to help anti-Pyongyang radio broadcasting stations run mostly by defectors from North Korea.

The EU and the Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) signed the deal with three stations — Free North Korea Radio, Open Radio for Korea and Radio Free Chosun — in Seoul to fund their programs for the next three years.

The stations have been producing and sending shortwave anti-communism and human rights radio broadcasts across the border. In the past, North Korea has asked South Korea to suspend the stations, calling them an obstacle to unification.

In a related Associated Press story, the South Korean government is allowing Voice of America access to South Korean transmission equipment for the first time since the 1970s:

That makes the signal much clearer than VOA’s long-running shortwave broadcasts from far-flung stations in the Philippines, Thailand and the South Pacific island of Saipan. Moreover, it’s an AM signal, so listening in doesn’t require a shortwave radio.

“Radio can play a big role in changing people,” said Kim Dae-sung, who fled the North in 2000 and is now a reporter at Free North Korea Radio, a shortwave radio broadcaster in Seoul. “Even if it’s simply news, it’s something that North Koreans have never heard of.”

Still, the move could be seen as yet more provocative policymaking by a government already at loggerheads with the North over Lee’s tough policy on Pyongyang, and comes at a time of heightened regional tensions over North Korea’s plans to launch a rocket early next month. Nuclear envoys from South Korea and Japan flew to Washington for talks Friday with top U.S. diplomats about North Korea.

Since Jan. 1, VOA has been using the antenna facilities of the Far East Broadcasting Company-Korea, a Christian evangelical radio station, for half of its three-hour nighttime broadcast into the North. The antenna is only 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the border.

South Korea prohibited VOA from broadcasting from its soil for carrying a 1973 report on the kidnapping of Kim Dae-jung, then a leading South Korean dissident. The authoritarian Seoul government at the time is widely believed to have been behind the abduction.

North Korea condemns such broadcasts as “U.S. psychological warfare” and often jams the signals. So far, it has not interfered with VOA’s new AM broadcast, said radio expert Park. Doing so requires more equipment than blocking shortwave signals, and the fact that North Korea isn’t doing so may indicate the North is struggling economically, he said.

Read the full stories here:
EU, reporters promise 400 million won to promote radio broadcasts into North
Yonhap
3/24/2009 

VOA wins powerful base for broadcasts into NKorea
Associated Press (via Herald Tribune)
3/28/2009

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US might not have a DPRK envoy, but…

Sunday, February 1st, 2009

US slaps sanctions on DPRK companies
According to the Associated Press (Via CBS):

The United States is imposing sanctions on several Chinese, Iranian and North Korean companies for violating arms export regulations governing missile technology and other proliferation activities.

The sanctions are largely symbolic as they bar the companies from trade with the U.S. that they were not likely involved in. Although they were in the works for some time, the Obama team signed off on the sanctions on Jan. 21, a day after it took office, signaling a continuing tough stance from Washington on weapons technology transfers.

U.S. Slaps Sanctions On Overseas Companies
Associated Press (via CBS)
2/2/2009

Here is a link to the text from the US Federal Register
Below is a summary:

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to Section 73(a)(1) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2797b(a)(1)); Section 11B(b)(1) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (50 U.S.C. app. 2410b(b)(1)), as carried out under Executive Order 13222 of August 17, 2001 (hereinafter cited as the “Export Administration Act of 1979”); and Executive Order 12851 of June 11, 1993; the U.S. Government determined on January 15, 2009 that the following foreign entities had engaged in missile technology proliferation activities that require the imposition of missile sanctions described in Section 73 of the AECA (22 U.S.C. 2797b)  and Section 11B of the EAA (50 U.S.C. Appx 24710b) on these entities:

Korea Mining and Development Corporation (KOMID) (North Korea) and  its sub-units and successors
–Mokong Trading Corporation (North Korea) and its sub-units and successors
–Sino-Ki (North Korea) and its sub-units and successors

And from the Donga Ilbo:

This is the eighth time for the mining company, which has been closely watched by Washington as an exporter of Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, to get U.S. sanctions.

The company was slapped with sanctions in 1992, 1998, 2000, 2003, January and August in 2007, and August last year.

Ex-IRA figure faces US counterfeiting charge
According to the Associated Press:

Irish police arrested former Workers Party leader Sean Garland, 74, outside the entrance of the fringe party’s Dublin headquarters — more than three years after he jumped bail in the neighboring British territory of Northern Ireland while facing a similar U.S. extradition warrant there.

Garland had been living openly in the Republic of Ireland — which typically refuses to extradite citizens to face criminal charges outside the European Union — since he left Belfast and abandoned a bail of 30,000 British pounds (about $53,000 at the time) following his October 2005 arrest.

U.S. authorities that year indicted Garland with receiving, smuggling and laundering millions in “superdollars” — so called because of their expert design — that the government of North Korea allegedly began distributing in the late 1980s to weaken the American currency. If extradited and convicted, Garland could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Only one of the past two-dozen extradition requests from the U.S. Justice Department has been approved by Irish judges, who generally oppose extradition, citing America’s harsher sentences and penal system.

Under [Garland’s] leadership, the Workers Party appealed in 1986 to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union for funds. According to the 2005 U.S. indictment, Russian officials encouraged Garland and other Official IRA activists to take counterfeit U.S. $100 bills produced by North Korea.

Read the full story here:
Ex-IRA figure faces US counterfeiting charge
Associated Press
Shawn Pogatchnik
1/30/2009

NK Defectors’ Groups to Get US Gov’t Aid
According to the Korea Times:

The U.S. Department of State will directly provide groups organized by North Korean defectors here with financial support for the first time, according to reports Sunday.

Thus far, Washington has funded local groups working for improvement of North Korean human rights via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private organization supporting freedom around the world.

The move was construed as part of increased U.S. efforts to shed light on humanitarian issues in the Stalinist state.

The State Department posted a notice on the Human Rights Democracy Fund (HRDF) last September and about 50 organizations reportedly applied for the program.

Among the beneficiaries, Free North Korea Radio and the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights were granted $500,000 and $300,000, respectively.

The groups will receive a certain amount of money every month for two to three years in accordance with their performance.

Kang Su-jin, founder and representative of the coalition, said she thinks that the U.S. department aims at nurturing North Korean defectors as future leaders through the direct funding.

An official of the department was quoted as saying on condition of anonymity by Radio Free Asia (RFA) that a total of $3 million has been set aside for the program.

But the official refused to elaborate on grantees, saying the issue was “very sensitive.”

Read the full story here:
NK Defectors’ Groups to Get US Gov’t Aid
Korea Times
Kim Sue-young
2/1/2009

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Some “good” news from North Korea

Friday, January 9th, 2009

On market regulations:  North Korean authorities issued three decrees restricting market activity: 1. Markets may only open once every 10 days  2. Only vegetables, fruits, and meat from private citizens can be sold in the markets.  Imported goods and products of state-owned companies are prohibited  3. To reduce the influence and growth of professional merchants, market booths will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis (no fixed locations).

The “good” news is that the authorities are having trouble implementing these rules:

A Pyongyang source said in a phone conversation with Daily NK on the 7th, “Until now, markets in Pyongyang have been opening at 2 PM every day and operating normally. They are only closed once a week, on Mondays as usual.”

However, the sale of imported industrial goods from China such as clothing, shoes, cosmetics, kitchen utensils and bathing products has become more restricted in the market. Subsequently, street markets or sales of such goods through personal networks have become increasingly popular.

The source noted, “Inspection units regulate the markets with one eye closed and the other eye open, so it is not as if selling is impossible. With a bribe of a few packs of cigarettes, it is easy to be passed over by the units. However, the sale of industrial goods has rapidly decreased and, if unlucky, one can have his or her goods taken, so the number of empty street-stands has been increasing.”

So many North Koreans now buy Chinese kitchen utensils in the same way Americans purchase cocaine!

But even in Pyongyang they are having troubles enforcing the new rules:

“Since December, rations in Pyongyang have consisted of 90 percent rice and 10 percent corn and in the Sadong-district and in surrounding areas, rice and corn have been mixed fifty-fifty percent.”

“It has even been difficult in Pyongyang, where rations are provided, to convert to 10-day markets due to opposition from citizens, so restricting sales in the provinces, where there is virtually no state provision, is impossible in reality. It is highly likely that the recent measure will end as an ineffective decree, like the ones to prohibit the jangmadang or the sale of grain”[.]

On North Korea’s information blockade:  Radio Free Asia published an informative article on the ability and propensity of North Koreans to monitor foreign broadcasts.  The “good” news is that access to unauthorized information continues to grow.  

The whole article is worth reading (here), but here is an excerpt:

North Koreans manage to gain limited access to foreign media broadcasts in spite of increasing government crackdowns in the isolated Stalinist state.

“We clamped down on the people watching South Korean television sets, but it wasn’t easy,” a North Korean defector and former policeman who monitored North Koreans’ viewing habits said. He said channels fixed by the North Korean authorities could easily be altered to catch South Korean programming.

“You could watch South Korean television such as KBS and MBC in Haeju, Nampo, Sariwon, even in Wonsan,” he said, referring to regions of Hwanghae province, just north of the border with South Korea.

“They reach also to the port cities near the sea. But you can’t watch them in Pyongyang because it’s blocked by mountains.”

He said the police themselves used to watch South Korean television “all the time” along with their superior officers.

“We would enjoy what we watched, but outside in public, we would praise the superiority of our socialist system. We knew it was rubbish.”

“According to North Korean defectors interviewed who came to South Korea right after living in the North, educated, intelligent people in North Korea do listen to foreign stations despite the inherent danger,” Huh Sun Haeng, director of the Center for Human Rights Information on North Korea, said in a recent interview.

He said he made good money fixing people’s radios, so they could get better reception of foreign broadcasts.

“I made good money readjusting channels on radios, or upgrading them with higher frequency parts for local people who want to listen to broadcasts other than the North’s state-run radios. There were at least a few hundred people that I know of who listened to foreign broadcasts,” he said.

He said no television reception reached the northern part of the country near the Chinese border, so people there watched recorded programs on videotape and video CD (VCD) instead.

Read the full articles here:
Pulling Back from Converting to 10-day Markets
Daily NK
By Jung Kwon Ho
1/9/2009   

Growing Audiences for Foreign Programs
Radio Free Asia
Original reporting in Korean by Won Lee
1/8/2009

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Christian group smuggling radios into DPRK

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Individuals and organizations who smuggle radios into the DPRK, whether for personal gain or for altruistic reasons, do not to attract attention to themselves.  This makes it difficult to determine just how many foreign-made radios can be operated, and by whom, in the DPRK.

This week, however, Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio announced that it will distribute 3,400 radios in the DPRK this year alone:

International Christian broadcaster Trans World Radio (TWR) confirmed Friday, November 7, that it has secretly distributed thousands of radio receivers in North Korea, one of the world’s most isolated Communist nations. 

“TWR already delivered 3,100 radio’s in recent months and the plan is to increase that number to 3,400 by the end of this year,”  said TWR-Netherlands from its headquarters in the Dutch town of Barneveld. “Radio is the only way for North Koreans to hear the Gospel.  However receivers sold in the country are only tuned to the state-run network,” TWR added.

TWR said it has set up a transmitter in the region to reach the people of North Korea with Christian programming and encourage underground churches. “Most Christians in North Korea are not able to share their faith with other believers openly, and are forced to worship in secret.”?

Who knows how many of these radios will end up in actual use, but this is just one organization in one year.  Is it plausible to believe that over 10,000 radios are smuggled into the DPRK in a year? Are there reasons to doubt or qualify these numbers?  Why would they announce this if it was true?

Source:
Christian Broadcaster Smuggles Radio’s To North Korea   
Bos News Life
Eric Leijenaar
11/7/2008

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Download glitch fixed: North Korea Google Earth (version 11)

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
Download it here

This map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, markets, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the eleventh version.

Additions include: Mt. Paegun’s Ryonghung Temple and resort homes, Pyongyang’s Chongryu Restaurant, Swiss Development Agency (former UNDP office), Iranian Embassy, White Tiger Art Studio, KITC Store, Kumgangsan Store, Pyongyang Fried Chicken Restaurant, Kilju’s Pulp Factory (Paper), Kim Chaek Steel Mill, Chongjin Munitions Factory, Poogin Coal Mine, Ryongwun-ri cooperative farm, Thonggun Pavilion (Uiju), Chinju Temple (Yongbyon), Kim il Sung Revolutionary Museum (Pyongsong), Hamhung Zoo, Rajin electrified perimeter fence, Pyongsong market (North Korea’s largest), Sakju Recreation Center, Hoeryong Maternity Hospital, Sariwon Suwon reservoir (alleged site of US massacre), Sinpyong Resting Place, 700 Ridges Pavilion, Academy of Science, Hamhung Museum of the Revolutionary Activities of Comrade Kim Il Sung, South Hamgyong House of Culture, Hamhung Royal Villa, Pork Chop Hill, and Pyongyang’s Olympic torch route. Additional thanks go to Martyn Williams for expanding the electricity grid, particularly in Samjiyon, and various others who have contributed time improving this project since its launch.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.  Additionally, this file is getting large and may take some time to load.

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Peterson Institute event featuring Marcus Noland

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

On Wednesday I attended a panel discussion featuring Marcus Noland, co-author (with Stephan Haggard) of Famine in North Korea, and three North Korean defectors.  Here is the video of the event.  Below is the information on the event from the Peterson Institute website:

Press release (slightly updated w/ comments from the talk)
North Korea is once again headed toward widespread food shortage, hunger, and risk of outright famine. According to Peterson Institute Senior Fellow Marcus Noland, “The country is in its most precarious situation since the end of the famine a decade ago.”

figure-1.JPG

Click for larger view

Calculations by Noland and Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego, indicate that the country’s margin of error has virtually disappeared. For technical reasons, estimates produced by the United Nations’ World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization (total demand) probably overstate demand implying recurrent shortages year after year (figure 1 above). Noland and Haggard argue that in recent years available supply has exceeded more appropriately calculated grain requirements (adjusted total demand) but that this gap has virtually disappeared. “This is a yellow light about to turn red,” says Noland.

 figure2.JPG
Click for larger view

Food prices have almost tripled in the last year, skyrocketing at a rate faster than either the overall rate of inflation or global food prices (figure 2 above). Anecdotal reports describe a breakdown in institutions and increasingly repressive internal behavior. Noland and Haggard forecast that the North Korean regime will ultimately weather this challenge politically by ratcheting up repression and scrambling, albeit belatedly, for foreign assistance.

The North Korean food crisis, now well into its second decade, presents a difficult set of ethical choices. North Korea is critically dependent on food aid, but the government has recklessly soured its relations with the donor community. Yet in the absence of vigorous international action, the victims of this disaster will not be the culpable but the innocent. As of this writing, it already may be too late to avoid at least some deaths from hunger, and shortages of crucial agricultural inputs such as fertilizer are setting the stage for continuing food problems well into 2009.

Paper presentation
Noland discussed two recent papers, written with Haggard and Yoonok Chang, Hansei University, which are based on a pathbreaking survey of more than 1,300 North Korean refugees in China (11 different cities).  The survey provides rare and extraordinary insight into both life in North Korea and the experiences of the refugees in China.

Paper 1: Exit Polls: Refugee Assessments of North Korea’s Transition 
Results from a survey of more than 1,300 North Korean refugees in China provide insight into changing economic conditions in North Korea. There is modest evidence of slightly more positive assessments among those who exited the country following the initiation of reforms in 2002. Education breeds skepticism; higher levels of education were associated with more negative perceptions of economic conditions and reform efforts. Other demographic markers such as gender or provincial origin are not robustly correlated with attitudes. Instead, personal experiences appear to be central: A significant number of the respondents were unaware of the humanitarian aid program (40%) and the ones who knew of it almost universally did not believe that they were beneficiaries (96%). This group’s evaluation of the regime, its intentions, and accomplishments is overwhelmingly negative—even more so than those of respondents who report having had experienced incarceration in political detention facilities—and attests to the powerful role that the famine experience continues to play in the political economy of the country.

Paper 2: Migration Experiences of North Korean Refugees: Survey Evidence from China 
Chronic food shortages, political repression, and poverty have driven tens of thousands of North Koreans into China. This paper reports results from a large-scale survey of this refugee population. The survey provides insight not only into the material circumstances of the refugees but also into their psychological state and aspirations. One key finding is that many North Korean refugees suffer severe psychological stress akin to post-traumatic stress disorder. This distress is caused in part by their vulnerability in China, but it is also a result of the long shadow cast by the North Korean famine and abuses suffered at the hands of the North Korean political regime: first and foremost, perceptions of unfairness with respect to the distribution of food aid, death of family members during the famine, and incarceration in the North Korean gulag, where the respondents reported witnessing forced starvation, deaths due to torture, and even infanticide and forced abortions. These traumas, in turn, affect the ability of the refugees to hold jobs in China and accumulate resources for on-migration to third countries. Most of the refugees want to permanently resettle in South Korea, though younger, better-educated refugees prefer the United States as a final destination.

Other speakers: Several North Korean defectors also spoke as part of North Korean Freedom Week here in Washington DC.  Comments and biographies below:

Kim Seung Min: Founder and Director of Free North Korea Radio, the broadcasting program providing news and information to North and South Korea and China. Kim attended both elementary and high school in Pyongyang before serving in the North Korean Army. He escaped from North Korea to China in 1996 but was arrested and repatriated. While traveling from Onseong to Pyongyang to face punishment for leaving the country without government permission, he jumped from a moving train to escape to China again and eventually made his way to South Korea. He worked as a laborer at a coal factory in Yenji, China, until his uncle in South Korea helped him to escape to South Korea. He attended Yonsei University and Graduate School at Joong Ang University, where he received a Master of Arts degree. After serving in leadership roles in the North Korean defector groups, he founded Free North Korea Radio, which was available on the internet beginning April 2004 and began broadcasting on shortwave in December 2005 with regular daily broadcasting beginning in April 2006. (Born 5/6/62 in Jangang Do, North Korea)

*Mr. Kim was a captain in the KPA for 16 years.  He talked about how soldiers were no better off in terms of access to food than ordinary North Koreans.  Starting in 1986, the DPRK state limited food supplies to the military to only rice, leaving the generals up to their own devices for feeding the army.  This led to a break-down in discipline and now people resent the personal behavior of many soldiers who are looking for food.

Kang Su Jin:Founder and Representative of the Coalition for North Korean Women’s Rights, the only organization focused specifically on increasing awareness of the horrors facing North Korean women in China, the role of women in democratizing North Korea, empowering and encouraging North Korean women who have resettled in South Korea, and building cooperation with other organizations. Kang was a member of the elites from Pyongyang and was the Manager of Supply from 1991 to 1998 of the Bonghwasan Hotel in Pyongyang, the biggest hotel in Pyongyang, which catered to high-ranking party and army officials and was used for special events. When food distribution stopped in Pyongyang in 1996, the regime announced that all hotels had to operate on their own, and conditions became very difficult for the workers. Kang visited China and saw how much better off the people were and decided to defect to South Korea. (Born 10/23/66 in Pyongyang, North Korea)

Kim Young-il:President and Founder of People for Successful Korean Reunification (P-SCORE), an organization founded in the fall of 2006, specifically to ensure the successful reunification of the Koreas would not adversely affect the South Korean economy. To that end, PSCORE, chiefly composed of young people, studies other reunification models, informs about the human rights conditions in North Korea, and prepares and educates young North Koreans to be ready to help lead a reunified Korea. Because Kim was not born into an elite family in North Korea, he was not allowed to attend university and was destined to become a coal miner after serving his mandatory military service. While in the military he witnessed many people including soldiers dying of starvation. His own uncle died of starvation and his cousins were left to wander the streets. His family made the decision to defect to China in August of 1996 instead of starving to death in North Korea. They survived there for five years bribing the police not to turn them in until they safely defected to South Korea in January 2001. Lim received a BA in Chinese from Hankook University of Foreign Studies in August 2006. (Born 4/10/78 in Hamheung, North Korea)

*Mr. Kim still communicates with people in the DPRK on a regular basis.  He said that the price of rice inside the DPRK is sensitive to external supply shocks (or even the rumors of external supply shocks).  This means that reports of aid cut offs could result in temporary domestic price spikes even if aid is delivered.

UPDATE: Photo and coverage in the Daily NK.

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An In-depth Look at North Korea’s Postal Service

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Daily NK
Moon Sung Hwee
4/8/2008

April 8th is Postal Service Day in North Korea. Each province has a branch office of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications and Communication Maintenance Bureau. The postal system manages the distribution of letters, telegrams, telephone calls, TV broadcasts, newspapers and magazines. Additionally, they mint stamps and also operate an insurance agency in name only.

In the late 1990s, the national postal system was completely ruined

In North Korea, postal service offices are set up in each “ri”—a small village unit–, of each county to deliver letters, parcel posts and telegrams. Following the March of Tribulation in the late 1990s, the delivery system was completely destroyed and its formal structure was left in tatters. Even in the 1980s when the North Korean economy and people’s lives were relatively stable, it took around 15 days to two months on average to deliver a letter from Pyongyang to a rural village.

In the case of a telegram, it took generally 3 or 4 days to reach a postal office in a rural area. In the late 1980s, to guarantee efficiency within the telegram delivery system, the authorities supplied the offices with second-hand bicycles from Japan.

After the March of Tribulation, letters disappeared due to train delays and frequent blackouts, and the telegram service was virtually incapacitated due to the lack of electricity.

Telephones were restricted to control the outflow of national secrets

North Korea uses a separate electricity supply for its telephone system. Even if there is a power blackout in a village, villagers can still use the telephone network. In 1993, fiber-optic cables were installed and the use of mail and telegram services began to decline. North Korean people call fiber optic cable a “light telephone.”

North Korea built an automatic telecommunicates system by developing multi-communication technology with imports of machinery and by inviting engineers from China in 1998.

In 2003, authorities allowed cadres to use telephones in their houses and in 2005, they also allowed people to use the telephone at home as long as they paid 2,000 North Korean won (approx. USD0.6) a month (a monthly salary is 1,500 won per laborer).

In August, 2007, the government tightened regulations regarding the telephone system. People could make calls only within their province. Authorities said the reason was to prevent the outflow of national secrets.

The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications controls TV and other broadcasting. There is no cable TV in North Korea. Authorities set up an ultra-short wave relay station in each county to relay television broadcasts.

North Korea signed a contract with Thailand for satellite broadcasting and installed U.S.-made transmission and relay facilities in 2000.

People can now listen to “Chosun Central Broadcasting,” but in rural areas, it is difficult to recieve signals because the broadcasting facilities and cables have already begun to deteriorate.

People sarcastically say a “newspaper is not about news but about “olds.” The authorities pay special attention to the successful delivery of the Workers Party Rodong Shinmun bulletin. To deliver Rodong Shinmun from Pyongyang to each province or even to each city and county by train, it normally takes 4-5 days. Sometimes, it takes more than a week.

People also say they use an “oral-paper” to get information because rumors are faster than the Rodong Shinmun.

Postal service workers were dragged to prison camps

In 1992, the Minister and all related officials of Posts and Telecommunications were fired, and the Minister, the Vice Minister and their families were sent to political prison camps for having wasted national finances for the import of factory machinery to produce fiber-optic cables from the U.K.

They submitted a proposal to Kim Jong Il to buy factory machines in order to earn foreign currency through the production and export of fiber optic cables. However, in the end they eventually bought worn-out machines from the U.K. and failed to earn profits. In addition, they embezzled some of the funds.

In 2001, in Lee Myung Soo Workers-District of Samjiyeon, Yangkang Province, two office workers and a manager of a relay station broadcasted Chinese TV programs that they were watching to residents by mistake, so they were sent to a political prison camp and their families were expelled to a collective farm.

Agents of the National Security Agency are stationed at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in order to scrutinize mail, parcels, to tap telephone wires and to supervise residents.

The Ministry regularly dispatches professional engineers to the 27th Bureau, to the airwaves-monitoring station, and to the 12th Bureau, which was newly established to censor mobile phones.

On Postal Service Day, Chosun Central Agency often delivers praise for the development of North Korea’s postal system and facilities under the General’s direction.

However, most ordinary citizens will not be able to watch or read about it in time, for the lack of paper, electricity, infrastructure, and delivery systems.

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Reporters Without Borders 2008 Report

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

rwb.JPG

The Reporters Without Borders 2008 Annual Report has been published.  It is not an index (with rankings assigned to each country) but rather a survey that groups nations into one of five quintiles based on the publisher’s perceptions of press freedom: (1. Good situation, 2. Satisfactory situation, 3. Noticeable problems, 4. Difficult situation, 5. Very noticeable problems.

If you read the report (here), it is mostly a qualitative analysis and there does not seem to be any objective methodology for grouping countries into a particular quintile. (Disclaimer: I have note read the whole thing, but usually the methodology is spelled out in its own section for these types of publications, but I have not been able to find it). This worries me because if there is no standard methodology, with relative weights, then the results are vulnerable to questions of subjectivity.

North korea is ranked a “Very Noticeable Problem.”  To read just the North Korea section of the report click: rwb-dprk.pdf

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Sending Out Signals to Long-Isolated North Koreans

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Writing for the Washington Post (December 30, 2007; Page A27), Francine Uenuma covers the DPRK defector-run radio stations in the South which broadcast for audiences in the North.

Who is in this game?
All told, Seoul has three privately run radio stations targeting the North: Open Radio for North Korea, Radio Free Chosun and Kim’s [Free North Korea Radio], the only one run by defectors, who are helped by a committed South Korean staff. Washington-based Radio Free Asia and Voice of America also broadcast to the North.

Tactics:
[FNK’s] broadcasts avoid overtly political messages in favor of cultural subjects. While for some North Koreans “politics is a matter of life and death,” others turn away from it, he noted. “We want to broaden our base as much as possible. For that purpose our radio programs are soft.”

Kim Yun-tae, director of Radio Free Chosun, said his station takes a similar approach. “At first we were doing more propaganda broadcasting, but we changed our minds,” he said. Added Kyounghee An, the station’s international manager, “We don’t think we can cause the collapse of the regime directly. . . . We think after listening, people can compare their real situation to Kim Jong Il’s propaganda and can change their minds, step by step.”

Radio Free Chosun broadcasts North Korean domestic news as well as stories of escapes, revisions to North Korean textbooks and dramas about Kim Jong Il.

The two stations run by South Koreans have defectors on staff who try to make the broadcasts palatable to a North Korean audience, smoothing out political and cultural differences in language, for instance.

Who is listening?
Determining how many people are listening to the stations’ broadcasts is impossible. Though jamming is an impediment, improved signals and electricity shortages that stop the jamming limit North Korea’s ability to block broadcasts completely.

Funding:
The South Korean government, eager to encourage good relations with the communist capital, Pyongyang, discontinued most of the programs its Korean Broadcasting System aimed at the North. But it has taken a hands-off approach to the private stations, broadcasters say, allowing them to operate but offering no financial support. All three services indirectly receive about $200,000 in U.S. government funds annually through the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy.

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North Korea Google Earth (Version 7)

Friday, December 14th, 2007

The most authoritative map of North Korea on Google Earth
North Korea Uncovered v.7
Download it here

koreaisland.JPGThis map covers North Korea’s agriculture, aviation, cultural locations, manufacturing facilities, railroad, energy infrastructure, politics, sports venues, military establishments, religious facilities, leisure destinations, and national parks. It is continually expanding and undergoing revisions. This is the sixth version.

Additions to the latest version of “North Korea Uncovered” include: A Korean War folder featuring overlays of US attacks on the Sui Ho Dam, Yalu Bridge, and Nakwon Munitians Plant (before/after), plus other locations such as the Hoeryong Revolutionary Site, Ponghwa Revolutionary Site, Taechon reactor (overlay), Pyongyang Railway Museum, Kwangmyong Salt Works, Woljong Temple, Sansong Revolutionary Site, Jongbansan Fort and park, Jangsan Cape, Yongbyon House of Culture, Chongsokjong, Lake Yonpung, Nortern Limit Line (NLL), Sinuiju Old Fort Walls, Pyongyang open air market, and confirmed Pyongyang Intranet nodes.

Disclaimer: I cannot vouch for the authenticity of many locations since I have not seen or been to them, but great efforts have been made to check for authenticity. These efforts include pouring over books, maps, conducting interviews, and keeping up with other peoples’ discoveries. In many cases, I have posted sources, though not for all. This is a thorough compilation of lots of material, but I will leave it up to the reader to make up their own minds as to what they see. I cannot catch everything and I welcome contributions.

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An affiliate of 38 North