North Korean authorities appear to be jamming radio broadcasts produced by a South Korean non-profit human rights organization as part of efforts to prevent North Koreans from listening to foreign radio programs.
According to Unification Media Group (UMG), which heads a consortium that includes Daily NK, there have been signs that North Korean authorities have been jamming radio broadcast frequencies used by UMG since mid-December.
“Jamming” refers to efforts to block or interfere with the transmission of wireless communications and may involve sending radio signals to particular frequencies to make it difficult for listeners to properly hear radio programs.
Whether or not North Koreans listen to foreign radio broadcasts or not depends on the quality of those radio broadcasts and any disruption to the broadcasts could ultimately lead many to stop listening to them.
Given the timing, the jamming attempts may be related to North Korea’s recent passing of an “anti-revolutionary thought” law by the country’s Supreme People’s Assembly on Dec. 4.
Se-kyung Park, the director of the Northeast Asian Broadcasting Institute (NEABI), monitors UMG radio broadcasts on a daily basis. He told Daily NK that it is possible to confirm in Seoul whether North Korea is jamming the radio broadcasts.
“I found clear signs that [UMG’s] evening broadcast on Jan. 2 was being jammed,” he said.
Park provided Daily NK with a digital file (below) that provides evidence that UMG radio broadcasts are being jammed. According to him, the reason the broadcast has so much noise is because North Korean authorities are transmitting radio signals to disrupt it.
Most South Korean organizations that transmit radio programs into North Korea use short-wave transmission equipment located overseas. This means that their transmission quality is not as great as they would be if the equipment was located in South Korea, and that they are susceptible to North Korea’s jamming attempts.
Members of South Korean civil society, including those operating radio stations transmitting into North Korea, are demanding that the South Korean government allow them to use South Korean AM frequencies. They argue that the use of these local frequencies will strengthen the radio signals and prevent the radio programs from being so easily jammed.
Others point out, however, that there are problems in allowing private organizations to use national radio frequencies and have also expressed concerns that transmitting radio programs into North Korea from South Korea would damage inter-Korean relations.