The reports vanished from the Korean-language portion of the site at around 5am Korean time on Monday (8pm GMT Sunday), said Frank Feinstein, a New Zealand-based researcher who runs the KCNA Watch service.
He said only the reports in which Jang was a central character were removed. Others that mentioned him in passing remained on the KCNA website. Feinstein was using his own index of KCNA articles as a reference to the original URLs.
“This is the first time I’ve caught them doing this red-handed,” he said in an email.
Four hours after the articles were deleted, they reappeared.
“There’s been absolutely no explanation as to why the articles were reinstated,” he said.
Among the articles that disappeared for several hours were some of the most recent that reported on Jang’s activities, including two from November 6 on Jang’s meeting with a visiting delegation from Japanese sports associations. Jang was meeting in his capacity as chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission.
A later check by Feinstein of KCNA news photos that included Jang showed all remained available on the site.
Separately, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said North Korean state television aired a re-edited version of a documentary in which images of Jang had been removed.
The images below, from the ministry, shows how two scenes in the documentary were reedited to remove shots that included Jang (circled). As it is difficult to remove people from video images, the state propagandists used video shots taken at the same from other angles.
North Korea’s state media revealed in stunning detail on Monday the alleged infractions of Jang Song Thaek and showed still images of his being led from a Worker’s Party of Korea meeting by soldiers.
The reports, which are unprecedented for North Korea, came just less than a week after South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reported to lawmakers in Seoul that he had been removed from power.
Here’s how state TV made the announcement.
Still images of Jang being led away are shown around the 8:40 mark.
And here’s the same story in English, as broadcast on Voice of Korea. The news begins at the 8:25 mark, after the opening anthems.
The recordings, which are available in five languages, have been offered by London-based World Radio Network since July this year, but the company is shutting down its on-demand service on December 15.
The move is part of an effort by WRN to refocus its efforts on its core service aimed at radio stations. WRN carries programming from major international broadcasters such as Deutsche Welle, KBS World Radio, Radio Prague and Radio New Zealand and redistributes them to AM and FM stations around the world. The online service was an offshoot of that.
When the WRN service closes, they’ll be two options for listeners that want to hear Voice of Korea’s daily hour-long broadcast.
The first is via a radio stream on the Thaicom 5 satellite. The satellite’s coverage area includes all of Asia and some of Europe, but requires a large satellite dish at least 2 meters in diameter. This is how WRN received the programming.
The other is via shortwave radio. The signal reaches most parts of the world, but suffers from interference and requires a good antenna in many regions.
The country became the 98th nation to join the International Maritime Satellite Organization (IMSO) when it acceded on October 15, according to a statement from the organization.
The IMSO is charged with overseeing public safety and security services on the Inmarsat series of satellites. Inmarsat operates a global network of satellites primarily aimed at the world’s oceans, which are areas where traditional satellite services don’t have great coverage.
Among the services under the remit of the IMSO is that of the Long Range Identification and Tracking (LRIT) system used by ships worldwide.
Established by the International Maritime Organization in 2006, LRIT requires passenger and cargo ships automatically report their identity and location at least four times a day. The system was intended to aid in the global identification and tracking of ships and is part of the shipping industry’s answer to piracy.
North Korea might have something to gain from participating in an international monitoring system for shipping. Much like it notifies authorities of satellite launches, adding satellite tracking to its ships enables the country to claim it follows international rules and regulations.
Back in 2011 a North Korean LRIT website appeared, but at the time it wasn’t functioning properly.
The IMSO also overseas the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), maritime safety information broadcasts, some aeronautical safety services, and distress alert and search and rescue coordination.
MND Radio, a shortwave radio station run by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, appears to have left the air.
The station was last heard broadcasting on October 31st. Since then, it hasn’t been detected by radio monitors in East Asia or further afield.
MND Radio first appeared in late 2011 and broadcast a handful a hour-long programs several times a day.
The station name, the organization behind it or any other details were ever announced on air, but details leaked through documents submitted to an international shortwave broadcasting coordination body.
Aside from the obvious similarity between the name “MND” and the abbreviation for the Ministry of National Defense, the contact phone number and fax number listed were both on South Korean Defense Ministry exchanges.
Just as it had never acknowledged the station, the Defense Ministry hasn’t acknowledged its apparent ending.
The South Korean government still runs two other shortwave stations: Voice of the People and Echo of Hope. The South Korean military also runs an FM radio station.
Enthusiasm appears to be waning for North Korea’s Samjiyon Android tablet.
Two of the tablets have appeared again on Ebay and were offered by the same vendor who sold one two weeks ago.
This time, it attracted fewer bids and sold for far less than the $546 winning bid of the first Samjiyon to appear on Ebay.
That was sold on November 17 by “email@example.com,” who was identified in an Ebay profile as a Canadian user. The tablet was being shipped from Yanji, China, which is close to the North Korean border.
The Ebay profile page for that email address user now redirects to user name “dansumeh.” The second of the Samjiyon tablets was also listed in Yanji, but the third had the city name removed and is identified as just Jilin province.
As noted previously, the model on Ebay appears to be a slightly lower spec version that the original Samjiyon reviewed by North Korea Tech and 38 North.
Here are the three auctions:
Driving up South Korea’s “freedom highway” north of Seoul, just after the turn off for the National Defense University, observant travelers will notice a collection of transmitter masts off to the right of the highway.
At first glance, the site looks like it might belong to a major broadcaster like KBS, but the truth appears to be much more interesting.
Seeing inside the site is impossible from the highway, but a neighboring hill provides a good outlook, as shown below.
The site contains 16 transmitter masts, all but one of which are contained in a large field. A single mast sits in the middle of neighboring greenhouses.
On the north side of the facility (the left side of this picture) are a series of buildings. These almost certainly house the transmitters that produce the signals that are piped to the masts.
As can be seen in the above picture, the site is surrounded by a high fence topped with barbed wire. There’s also a guard post at the edge of the facility where the road enters. The road itself contains barriers placed to slow approaching traffic and notices to motorists.
The fences, guard posts and road blocks all point to the facility being somewhat sensitive. The main KBS shortwave transmitter site at Gimjae in the south of the country doesn’t have the same level of security. Neither does an MBC transmission facility a little further north along the highway.
The sensitivity of the site is confirmed with a check of satellite pictures of the field.
Here’s how it looks on Google Maps:
The transmitter masts and buildings can be easily seen.
And here’s the same field on Daum Maps:
The image on Daum, a South Korean portal, has been altered so that none of the transmitter masts or buildings appear. It hasn’t been done perfectly — a few of the shadows cast by the masts can be seen — but it’s a pretty effective effort at removing any details of the facility.
South Korea routinely edits satellite pictures of military installations just as it restricts digital maps of areas near the border, so this is pretty close to confirmation that the radio facility is a sensitive government facility.
But what is it used for?
For the answer to that, a radio provides a clue.
Among the roughly dozen shortwave radio stations that broadcast to North Korea, there are two that don’t have websites, they don’t have listings and can’t be found in official literature.
“Voice of the People” and “Echo of Hope” have been on the air for years, broadcasting an anti-regime program that goes further than other stations in attacking the North Korean government and leadership.
Both stations have long been assumed to be run by the National Intelligence Service and are heavily jammed by North Korea.
The North Korean jamming, which involves broadcasting a very powerful noise signal on the same frequency, makes the South Korean stations difficult to receive. It’s is so powerful that it even overrides their signal on radios in Seoul, across the sea in Japan and even in the United States.
But close to this mystery transmitter site, the North Korean jamming signal cannot be heard over “Voice of the People.” The signal of the South Korean station is strong and clear. It’s so strong, it overloaded my radio:
In comparison, here’s what it typically sounds like anywhere away from this location. The following file was recorded in Seoul.
The conclusion? The transmitter site is almost certainly the base from which the South Korean government broadcasts the “Voice of the People” propaganda station towards North Korea.
It’s worth noting “Echo of Hope,” the second propaganda station, was received poorly at this location. That means that it probably comes from a different site.
A Washington, D.C.-based journalist and blogger has managed to obtain details on web traffic to the Korean Central News Agency’s website thanks to poor security on a previous version of the site.
Writing on his blog, Dino Beslagic said he was able to access the site traffic data through a hidden interface page on the KCNA website. Rather than block off access with a firewall, the site allowed access to the page after simply acknowledged a pop-up window.
Access to the data enabled Beslagic to produce a graph of daily visitors and number of hits for the period from April 2011 to December 2012. This period covered the December 2011 death of Kim Jong Il and the resulting spike in traffic is obvious.
For most of 2011 until that point, the site attracted just a few hundred visitors per day. On the day Kim died, this jumped to 45,487 unique visitors on December 20 and 71,239 page views. Traffic quickly dropped off but settled at a higher level of between 2,000 and 3,000 visitors per day.
Traffic slowly rose through 2012 until it was averaging between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per day in the second half of the year.
The switch to a new web design apparently cut off access to the web analytics page so the data stops at the end of 2012.
According to Beslagic’s analysis, Korean was the most popular language on the site. He counted just over 341,163 views of Korean content followed by 68,185 in Chinese, 38,489 in English, 20,439 in Japanese and 2,896 in Spanish.