South Korea’s Resumption of Propaganda Broadcasts

The airing of K-pop, news and weather reports, and criticisms of North Korea across their common border comes two days after Pyongyang said it tested a hydrogen bomb.

Ahn Young-joon / AP

South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts—including K-pop, news and weather reports, and criticisms of its northern neighbor—that North Korea views as an act of war, two days after Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb.

“We plan to air the show for two to six hours every day on an irregular basis, but in a way that prevents any damage from a possible attack across from the border and minimize the residents’ inconvenience,” a military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

The official added: “Most subjects are based on facts, and some are about human-rights violations and others the nuclear test, saying the regime is worsening already difficult economic circumstances.”

Here’s more on the broadcasts themselves, from the Korea Herald:

At noon, the “Voice of Freedom” show began with the host calling for soldiers to quit smoking as a New Year’s resolution, followed by the 1980s rock band Gun Son’s popular song “No Smoking” and Rimi and Potato’s “Baby I’m Cold.”

Unfolding at 11 locations along the heavily fortified frontier, the broadcasts provide a rare source of outside news and music for North Korean frontline troops and residents of border towns in the reclusive society. It has four main themes, each aimed at promoting freedom and democracy, illustrating the South’s political and economic ascent, recovering national homogeneity and revealing the reality of the regime, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.  …

For the reopening, the military upgraded the content to criticize the recent atomic test, while adding latest hit tunes such as Lee Ae-ran’s viral “A Centennial Life,” GFriend’s “Me Gustas Tu,” Apink’s “Let Us Just Love” and Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang.” In a radio drama aired around 6 p.m., a top aide of Kim’s deceased father and late strongman Kim Jong-il sexually harrassed a married woman who then was shot to death by him while trying to protect her disputing husband.

The Herald reported the broadcasts can travel up to 6 miles.

The resumption of the broadcasts, which Seoul had suspended last year under a deal to resolve tensions with the North, came after Wednesday’s claim by Pyongyang that it had tested a hydrogen bomb. South Korea said the test was a “grave violation” of that agreement. The North’s claim hasn’t been independently verified, and confirmation could take months, though many nuclear experts have expressed skepticism.

South Korea and Japan, which have borne the brunt of North Korea’s sometimes bellicose and often erratic policies, have tried to cobble together a diplomatic front to respond to North Korea’s announcement. The UN Security Council, which met Wednesday to discuss the test, hinted at further sanctions on the North.

Much of the focus has been on China, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the Security Council, which is North Korea’s main ally. Beijing said it was not informed about the test in advance—as it had been during the North’s previous nuclear tests—and criticized the North’s actions. But on Friday, it appeared to push back against calls from the U.S. and others to do more to influence Pyongyang.

“The origin and crux of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula has never been China,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said. “The key to solving the problem is not China.”

That, The New York Times reports, was “a clear reference to the belief in China that efforts by the Americans to isolate North Korea economically and politically over the past decade have worsened the situation.”