Posts tagged Voice of the People
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.
Numerous broadcasts of North Korea’s external radio service and some of the country’s jamming of foreign radio stations has been off air in the last few days, according to several reports.
Voice of Korea, which broadcasts in several languages on shortwave to audiences outside of the country, missed many of its scheduled transmissions on July 20 and July 21.
On a typical day the station uses as many as eight transmitters simultaneously to beam its programming around the world, but on July 20 a radio monitor in Bulgaria noted only had two on the air at any one time. A day later, on July 21, the station had between two and seven transmitters on air simultaneously depending on the time.
Voice of Korea has gone through periods in the last few years when it regularly missed some transmissions. The radio station never acknowledged any problems leaving the cause unknown. Speculation has centered around engineering work for the installation of new transmitters or power supply problems.
Also on July 20, radio monitors in the U.S. noted the broadcast of South Korea’s KBS Hanminjok Bangsong on 6015kHz shortwave could be clearly heard without jamming.
North Korea typically jams this station by broadcasting noise over the top of its signal so listeners in the DPRK cannot hear the programs. (You can read more about North Korean radio jamming in an article I wrote for NK News.)
A day later, monitors also noted some of the transmissions of Echo of Hope and Voice of the People, both South Korean government broadcasts aimed at North Korea, were also free of jamming.
Monitoring will continue of the next few days.
Several of North Korea’s external radio services and its powerful jamming operation that blocks foreign broadcasts are having trouble staying on the air.
Voice of Korea, the country’s international radio outlet, was missing from several of its scheduled broadcasts on Thursday, according to monitoring from sites in South Korea, Japan and the U.S.
Two days earlier its English-language broadcast to North America, scheduled from 1500-1554 GMT (1000-1054 Eastern Time) abruptly cut off around 20 minutes into the broadcast and didn’t return. On Thursday the French program left the air five minutes early while in the middle of a song.
All these events are highly unusual for the station, which is charged with spreading North Korean news and propaganda to a global audience.
The country’s jamming of overseas broadcasts, which involves the broadcast of noise over the top of a radio station to make it unintelligible to listeners in North Korea, has also been sporadic.
Early Thursday it could not be detected on any of the frequencies used by radio stations “Voice of the People” and “Echo of Hope.” Both stations, which are believed to be operated by South Korea’s intelligence service, are usually heavily jammed.
It was also missing from broadcasts of MND Radio, a recently activated station operated by South Korea’s Ministry of Defense.
The country’s domestic services appear to be unaffected at present, according to monitoring reports.
It’s impossible to know the source of the problem and the radio station is unlikely to make an announcement or apology to listeners, but all signs point to electricity shortages. A typical shortwave transmitter requires between 100-500 kilowatts of energy, which is equivalent to hundreds of electric kettles or heaters being used simultaneously. Several such transmitters are on air for jamming alone.
Earlier in February, Reuters reported that Pyongyang is facing its “worst electricity shortages in years,” quoting a foreign diplomat based in the city.