21 February 2019
Protesters burn placards depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a rally in central Seoul on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
Protesters burn placards depicting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a rally in central Seoul on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

S Korea aims to crash Kim birthday party with K-pop blasts

South Korea announced it will resume propaganda broadcasts against the North in response to Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test.

From Friday noon, loudspeakers along the heavily fortified border will blare songs and messages that brought the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a war footing in August, and then to the negotiating table, Bloomberg News reports.

The day marks Kim’s birthday.

Kim was sufficiently bothered by the broadcast of South Korea ballads and rap music, known as K-pop, at the demilitarized zone that he declared a “semi-state of war” which eventually led to marathon talks between the two side.

Kim’s officials later agreed to halt the mobilization of forces on condition that Seoul stop the broadcasts.

For years, the United Nations has imposed sanctions and other penalties against Pyongyang, but the isolated regime has pursued its nuclear program.

Earlier this week, North Korea announced that it had tested an atomic bomb, a claim that nuclear experts have doubted but has prompted the UN to announce that it will take new steps against Pyongyang.

In the United States, lawmakers sought tougher sanctions on North Korea while Secretary of State John Kerry urged China to support a sterner approach to Kim’s regime.

The broadcasts are a low-tech response to Kim’s saber-rattling, but they have had their effect on the North, according to Bloomberg.

“Kim Jong-un isn’t your typical dictator. He’s a god in North Korea, and propaganda broadcasts raise questions among North Koreans about that,” said Park Chang-kwon, a senior research fellow at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul.

“Broadcasts from South Korea can reach deep and far into North Korea’s society, imbuing the minds of its people with the images of a free nation and hurting the oppressive personality cult.”

The broadcasts challenge Kim’s monopoly on information. Speakers have been set up at 11 locations along the border and play messages — lasting three to four hours — several times a day, Bloomberg said, citing a report from South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

They are played at random times to prevent the North from drowning them out with their own broadcasts.

The bursts range from K-Pop and recordings of casual conversations to discussions about the importance of human rights and the lives of South Korea’s middle class, according to the defense ministry in Seoul.

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