Sixty Years of Psyops

The South Korean military has sent more than 1.918 billion leaflets across the border with North Korea since 1980, it was revealed today.

The information was revealed in a report, “The Current State of Psychological Warfare against North Korea,” released this morning by the Ministry of National Defense, prepared by a member of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee, lawmaker Song Young Sun.

According to the report, around 590 million leaflets were distributed inside North Korea in the 1980s, and a further 110 million to 150 million annually between 1990 and 1999. A mere 1.44 million such leaflets were sent north in the year 2000.

The report also reveals that of the 1.23 million leaflets produced following the Yeonypyeong Island shelling on November 23rd, 2010, 400,000 have been distributed to date.

The report also includes statistics for the amount of loudspeaker broadcasting that has been undertaken along the DMZ since the 1953 Korean War armistice, and notes changes in content through that period.

Until the 1970s, there were approximately six to seven hours of broadcasts per day, but this was ramped up during the 1980s and 1990s, reaching between ten and twenty programs covering fifteen to sixteen hours per day prior to the speakers going quiet under a 2004 agreement made by the South Korean administration of Roh Moo Hyun.

At the time of the cessation of the loudspeaker broadcasting, there were 94 separate sets of speakers along the DMZ, the report also notes. This is in stark contrast to the mere eleven sets which were re-erected last summer as part of the May 24 Measures announced by President Lee Myung Bak following the Cheonan sinking, but never turned on.

In terms of content, the broadcasts of the early years focused mostly on portraying the development of South Korea, exposing the horrors of North Korea and communicating the reality of life in communist countries, but from the 1970s moved to criticizing the contradictions inherent in the North Korean system of dictatorship and inspiring the military units guarding the border to turn against their government, before moving to criticizing the regime itself in the 1980s, the report adds.

However, the coming of the 1990s witnessed another shift, with the focus moving to broadcasting developments in both South Korean society and economy alongside programs intended to induce the opening of North Korean society and overcome the differences engendered by 50 years of division.

Finally, the 2000s brought with them an additional focus on the affluence of South Korea and the superiority of democracy over dictatorship, alongside further efforts to overcome the differences between the North and South Korean people and heavy criticism of the dictatorship of Kim Jong Il.

In concluding the report, Song emphasized the effectiveness of psychological warfare, and urged its continuation.

“Through a range of channels, South Korean culture is being transmitted to the North Korean people; in future, psychological warfare will be able to play a big role in political, economic and of course cultural unification,” she claimed, adding, “Psychological warfare against North Korea is not only something which is able to change the reality for the North Korean people; it must be further strengthened to have a greater influence on the way to reform and opening.”