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Asia Minute: Pumping Up the Volume to North Korea

Se Mo / Flickr
Se Mo / Flickr
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The international community is still discussing potential responses to North Korea’s apparent nuclear test earlier this week. While some kind of coordinated approach is likely through the United Nations, there will also be a more immediate response—right on the border. HPR’s Bill Dorman explains in today’s Asia Minute.

Economic sanctions are a predictable response to North Korean provocations.  And then there’s the weapon of K-pop.  Playing music from popular South Korean boy bands and girl bands and rappers has become a strategy, deployed along the border between North and South Korea as part of old-fashioned propaganda.

The BBC reports there are forty loudspeakers positioned in secret locations on the South Korean side of the border.  Government officials say they can penetrate up to twelve miles inside the north, depending on the weather.  Loudspeaker wars over the Korean border started back in the 1960’s, and have ebbed and flowed over the decades.

The New York Times quotes South Korean officials as saying that Pyongyang’s efforts at blasting messages to the south have been hampered by poor audio equipment, and frequent power outages. There was a sort of a truce until last summer, when two South Korean soldiers were wounded by land mines.

That triggered an audio response from the South, until the two sides reached a deal that included turning down the speakers….until now.  South Korea’s government says it will pump up the volume today…also reported to be the birthday of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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