The Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) (Korean: ??????, Chinese: ??????, Japanese: ??????) is the main domestic radio network in the DPRK. It sits under the Central Broadcasting Committee of the DPRK (called the Radio and Television Committee of the DPRK until 2009).
KCBS broadcasts from 5am to 3am local time via a network of mediumwave and shortwave transmitters that cover the nation. The powerful transmissions can easily be heard in neighboring countries, including South Korea where some of its frequencies are jammed.
It is also relayed at certain times via the Voice of Korea, the DPRK’s international shortwave service.
A central program is broadcast from Pyongyang on most transmitters through the entire broadcast day, but some are reported to carry regional programming between 2pm and 3pm.
All programming is in Korean and includes music, talk and news. Main news bulletins are broadcast at 6am, 7am, 10am, midday, 3pm, 5pm, 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
The main mediumwave transmitters are:
- 702kHz, Chongjin (50kW)
- 720kHz, Wiwon (500kW)
- 765kHz, Hyesan (50kW)
- 810kHz, Kaesong (50kW)
- 819kHz, Pyongyang (500kW)
- 873kHz, Sinuiji (250kW)
- 882kHz, Wonsan (250kW)
- 927kHz, Hwangju (50kW)
- 999kHz, Hamhung (250kW)
- 1080kHz, Haeju (1500kW)
- 1368kHz, Pyongyang (2kW)
The powerful Haeju transmitter puts out a signal that easily reaches into South Korea, China and Japan during the nighttime. The South Korean government jams most of the North Korean mediumwave programming, but the jamming signal is weaker than that coming from North Korea so doesn’t affect listening outside of South Korea.
If you’re in the region, the 500kW (kilowatt) and 250kW transmitters are also worth listening out for during the nighttime. They stronger channels can be heard on most mediumwave radios and car radios.
The KCBS shortwave frequencies are:
- 2350kHz, Sariwon
- 2850kHz, Pyongyang
- 3220kHz, Hamhung
- 3350kHz, Pyongsong
- 3920kHz, Hyesan
- 3960kHz, Kanggye
- 3970kHz, Wonsan
- 3980kHz, Chongjin
- 6100kHz, Kanggye (250kW)
- 9665kHz, Pyongyang
- 11680kHz, Kanggye
Frequencies in italics have not been monitored or reported recently and may be off the air.
The shortwave channels don’t appear to be jammed by South Korea and the 2850kHz signal from Pyongyang can be received in Seoul quite clearly all day. The power of the various transmitters varies so some are easy to hear while others present more of a challenge. In Tokyo, the 2850kHz and 6100kHz are easy to hear in the evening. The 6100kHz channel carries Voice of Korea overseas programming between 3:30pm and 10:30pm.
KCBS is also reported to broadcast on 93.8 FM in Pyongyang and 102.3 FM in Kaesong.
KCBS is reported to be carried alongside Korean Central Television on the Thaicom-5 satellite.
Voice of Korea relay transmissions
The station is relayed via Voice of Korea at the following times and on the following frequencies:
- 2am to 2:50am (1700 to 1750 GMT) to East Asia on 3560kHz; to Europe on 7570kHz and 12015kHz; to North America on 11710kHz
- 5am to 5:50am (2000 to 2050 GMT) to East Asia on 4405kHz; to 7210kHz, 9325kHz, 9975kHz, 11535kHz and 11910kHz
- 8am to 8:50am (2300 to 2350 GMT) to East Aisa on 3560kHz, 7235kHz, 7570kHz, 9345kHz, 9975kHz, 11535kHz and 12015kHz
- 6pm to 6:50pm (0900 to 0950 GMT) to East Asia on 3560kHz, 7220kHz and 9345kHz
- 9pm to 9:50pm (1200 to 1250 GMT) to Latin America on 6285kHz and 9335kHz; to Southeast Asia on 6185kHz and 9850kHz
- 11pm to 11:50pm (1400 to 1450 GMT) to Southeast Asia on 6185kHz and 9850kHz
Here’s a clip of the sign-on at 5am each morning. The tuning signal plays twice then a male voice announces the name of the station, “Chos?n Chungang Pangsong imnida,” then two more rounds of the interval signal and the station name from a female voice.
Then follows the time signal and the national anthem.[audio:https://www.northkoreatech.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/101105-kcbs-signon.mp3|titles=KCBS sign-on]
The Voice of Korea external service uses the same format, albeit with announcements in different languages.
The station officially inaugurated programming on October 14, 1945, with a live broadcast of the victory speech of Kim Il Sung when he returned to Pyongyang at the end of World War II, according to a KCNA report from 2005. The same reported noted the station’s duty is to broadcast “the voices of the Workers’ Party of Korea at home and abroad.”
It’s origins can be traced back to 1936 and radio station JBBK. Operated by the occupying Japanese forces, JBBK broadcast a first and second program as part of Japan’s radio network that covered the Korean peninsula from Seoul. Program one broadcast on 820kHz and program two on 1090kHz. The start dates are given as either April 10/11th or November 15th depending on the source.
The 820kHz channel is still in use in Pyongyang today, albeit on 819kHz. The frequency was slightly shifted when Asia mediumwave broadcasting moved from 10kHz to 9kHz spacing between channels.