Shortwave, Shortwave Soapbox

See, I Told You: Shortwave Radio Matters!


See, I Told You: Shortwave Radio Matters!

Forgive the tongue-in-cheek title, but I just could not resist. There was an excellent article in the DailyNK published online from Seoul, Korea entitled Radio broadcasts an ‘eye-opening’ experience for N. Koreans. The article discusses the impact radio broadcasts into North Korea have had on some of the people, particularly those who have made their way into South Korea.

The article notes:

The authorities require all radio sets to be fixed to Pyongyang’s central broadcast frequency — a clear sign of state efforts made to block all means of communication. State-run media focus only on the idolization of the Kim family instead of providing people with information and a balanced viewpoint on issues. Being able to listen to a voice from the outside world, typically by bribing someone with the know-how to tamper with the dial on radios smuggled in from China, instead of North Korea’s state propaganda is said to be an eye-opening experience, according to North Korean defectors who have had access to loudspeaker messages or radio broadcasts. For people in the North who are thirsty for news from outside of the country, these broadcasts help open their eyes to the lies told by the state and the fabrications behind the dictatorship . . . .

“After listening to the radio, I naturally found myself comparing things with the reality in North Korea,” Chae Ga Yeon (50), a North Korean defector who used to enjoy tuning into radio broadcasts, told Daily NK on Wednesday. “Having learned about things that are different from state propaganda, I took on a more critical way of thinking toward the state, and I started to realize Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are not gods as the state claims. They started to look like average human beings,” she said. 

“People who have tuned into broadcasts like these don’t keep the information to themselves. They share it with others,” Chae explained. “This makes other people listen in on the broadcasts as well, and they start being more critical against the state that is blocking out the information.” 

Kim Seong Yeob (45) is another escapee who also tuned into these broadcasts. “North Korean broadcasts are not interesting since all they do is focus on idolization, so I enjoyed listening to South Korean broadcasts since they would share different news stories and air radio dramas as well,” Kim said. “Then I came to open my eyes to the false propaganda and developed this desire to learn more about society in North Korea and study it,” he recalled.

(The article in its entirety may be found here. Many thanks to SWLing Post reader Ulis for sharing this story)

The article even mentions that higher-ups in the N. Korean Army regularly listen to radio from South Korea and China, which means this influence is seeping into the very government. What I really appreciate about this article is the first-person accounts of folks who point definitively to the influence of radio on helping them see the real truth of their country’s leadership, and helping to break through the brainwashing they had received. I doubt very many of us could resist such propaganda if we had been raised on a steady diet of lies as have the N. Koreans.

This is not rocket science folks, just plain common sense. And therein lies the rub. Most governments, ours included, seem to lack this most basic trait. Radio is the cheapest and most effective way to get information into the hands of people who need it most because of repressive regimes. TV signals cannot travel far enough, and satellite equipment, Internet hotspots and computers are out of the price range (and availability) of most of these same people. But radio is cheap, it can be shared easily, and it is virtually everywhere.

It find it oddly humorous that folks often complain about the plethora of religious stations which transmit over shortwave frequencies, and yet does this not prove the very point that shortwave radio is effective? I confess to getting really, really tired of hearing “Brother Stair” seemingly every few megahertz along the bands, but obviously they believe their message is getting through. So does China Radio International and Radio Havana Cuba, as they are on almost as many places as Brother Stair.

Hey! Just an idea – maybe our government could take some of the money they use for all of these Public Service announcements about smoking and bullying and funnel some of it over to Voice of America? I would certainly feel like the money was being better spent . . . . Just my 2-cents worth!

73, Robert

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