Ordinary residents of North Korea’s capital are evading television censors and watching banned South Korean programs via compact electronic devices, according to sources inside the country.
As a result, authorities in Pyongyang, where citizens are only permitted to watch state television programs, are censoring small unregistered televisions and laptops in individual households, sources said.
“Video censors organized by the department of propaganda of North Korea’s Workers’ Party randomly inspect Pyongyang households,” a source who lives in North Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service. “Especially some areas of Pyongyang that have a good signal for receiving South Korean channels have become the subject of censorship.”
In the past, North Korean authorities intercepted electric waves and set registered television channels to prevent people from watching South Korean TV programs, he said.
“However, they cannot do that anymore because of electric power shortages,” he said.
But despite occasional power cuts in Pyongyang because of a lack of electricity, people can still watch South Korean TV broadcasts using battery-powered devices other than their state-registered TVs, said another source who lives in Pyongyang.
Furthermore, it should be difficult for censors to prevent North Korean residents from watching South Korean television because households have small, unregistered 4.7-inch televisions and tablets, he said.
Best viewing areas
The best areas for receiving South Korean television channels in the capital are the suburban districts of Mangyongdae and Taesong, which attract many North Korean tourists who go there to visit the Mangyongdae Terrace swimming pool, Kumsusan Palace of the Sun and Daeseongsan Mountain Amusement Park, the source who lives in North Pyongan province said.
“Although there are differences in image quality in different areas, almost every Pyongyang area can receive South Korean television [transmissions],” he said.
Pyongyang lies 120 miles (194 kilometers) from Seoul, the capital of media-dense South Korea.
North Koreans in Gangwon province, the northeastern coastal region, South Pyongan province, and part of South Hamgyong province also easily receive South Korean TV transmission signals, he said.
Those who watch South Korean television channels the most in Pyongyang—the wealthy, intellectuals, professors and Party elites—are not subject to censorship by the state political security department, the security service or a group that censors anti-socialists, the source said.
A special judicial authority called the United Command is in charge of censoring the wealthy and intellectuals, he said.
Despite censorship activities, South Korean television programs have higher viewer ratings than do North Korea’s Korean Central Television, sources said, because residents have become disillusioned with state-run television which is nothing more than regime propaganda.
Reported by Jieun Kim of RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Soo Min Jo. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.