Updated at 2:30 p.m. EST on 2012-05-23
Authorities in North Korea have stepped up efforts to jam South Korean television and radio broadcasts in a bid to prevent the public from accessing news from the outside world, according to North Korean sources inside the country and along the border with China.
A North Korean resident surnamed Yoon, who lives in Kangwon province’s Wonsan city near the Chinese border, said that television programs from the South had been harder to receive than usual in recent weeks, and that authorities may be interfering with the broadcasts which they fear might undermine authoritarian rule.
“Nowadays, it is really difficult to watch South Korean programs on TV,” Yoon told RFA during a trip to China where he was visiting his relatives.
“I’ve been seeing [static] for some time now,” Yoon said. “I first thought it was because the weather was bad, but things like this have happened rain or shine, so I suspect it is because the authorities are jamming the signals.”
He said that on other days, he encountered no interference when viewing the same channels.
“I don’t think they jam the broadcasts every day,” Yoon said. “But I still can’t tell why they jam the broadcasts on some days and not on others.”
A Nampo resident surnamed Lee, from South Pyongan province, also on the Chinese border, said that news programs from South Korea’s largest television network, Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), had also been difficult to receive.
“Until recently, the KBS satellite broadcasting programs were easier to watch than the [official] North Korean central broadcasting programs,” he told RFA during a trip to China.
“But due to poor picture and sound quality these days, it is now very difficult to watch the South Korean programs.”
A Chinese source closely monitoring North Korea and who listens to RFA broadcasts near the border area said that authorities are also targeting radio signals from the South with jamming frequencies.
“It has become increasingly difficult to listen to radio broadcasts in recent days due to the jamming signals coming from North Korea,” the source told RFA on condition of anonymity.
But the source added that reception can, at times, be very clear, leading him to believe that North Korean authorities are not jamming the broadcasts continuously.
“Due to serious electricity shortages, it would be difficult for them to jam the broadcasts on a regular basis,” he said.
While it is largely the coastal regions in North Korea that can access South Korean broadcasts, the extent of the areas that receive the programs is reportedly quite wide.
According to an RFA survey of North Koreans who have traveled to China, residents of the Kaesong area, which is close to the South Korean border, as well as those in western coastal areas such as Haeju and Nampo, receive broadcasts.
Those residents have reported the ability to watch programs from all three of South Korea’s free-to-air networks, including KBS, MBC, and SBS, just as clearly as they can watch programs from North Korea’s Korean Central Television (KCTV).
And residents of North Korea’s eastern coastal regions, including the cities of Wonsan, Hamhung, and even Chungjin, have reported simply needing to adjust their indoor antennas to access South Korean television broadcasts.
Experts have suggested that, based on these reports, North Korean authorities understand the limits they face in monitoring the people against accessing South Korean broadcasts and instead are focusing their efforts on jamming the signals.
Earlier this month, sources told RFA that illicit South Korean movies and other entertainment programs are becoming more available on North Korea’s black market due to the proliferation of DVD writers smuggled in from China and new distribution networks in the south of the country.
They said that DVD writers are stoking the production of videos of South Korean soap operas, movies, and music which North Korean leaders have long tried to forbid in an attempt to keep unwanted foreign influences from seeping into the isolated nation.
Reported by Joon-ho Kim for RFA’s Korean service. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.