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The Air War Over North Korea
by James Dunnigan
October 19, 2011

North Korean refugees, operating from South Korea, have led the psyops (psychological warfare) effort against North Korea in recent years. They started shortwave radio transmissions with U.S. government funding and launched helium balloons loaded with DVDs and leaflets. The South Korean government had halted its official propaganda as part of an agreement with the North in 2004. But the torpedoing of a South Korean warship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island last year changed all that.

The South Korean military has jumped in with both feet. The Joint Chiefs of Staff established a psyops unit. It resumed transmissions of the Voice of Freedom, an FM propaganda network. Voice of Freedom is produced in Seoul and then relayed via the military’s Mungunghwa 5 satellite to six FM transmitters along the DMZ. Programs include plenty of pop music in the popular (in North Korea) “trot” style. The station plans to expand to AM, a better choice as there are few FM receivers in North Korea.

    The military has joined the dissidents in distributing leaflets via balloons. Five ton trucks with printers aboard can produce up to 80,000 leaflets a day. The trucks receive the design and layout of a particular leaflet via a roof-top satellite dish. The leaflets are chosen from a database of 1,300 that are jointly produced by American and South Korean psyoperators. There can be as many as three launches a month if the wind and weather are right. A new leaflet is tried each month. Some South Korean lawmakers have objected to the military targeting North Korean civilians, but the effort continues.

Another outlet is loudspeakers. Four have been set up in the DMZ. Measuring 4 by 3 meters, they can be heard 12 kilometers away during the day and twice as far at night. Each cost about $165,000. But they have yet to be turned on as North Korea threatened to shell any speaker that starts broadcasting.--Hans Johnson


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