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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 20:21 GMT 21:21 UK
N Korea suspends propaganda broadcasts
North-South Korean border
North and South Korea are still technically at war
North Korea has announced that it is to halt propaganda broadcasts to the South and has urged Seoul to reciprocate.

The move appears to reflect concern in Pyongyang about the impact South Korean broadcasts have on its population.

Kim Ryong-song, head of the North Korean delegation to inter-Korean ministerial talks, sent a message to his South Korean counterpart saying that broadcasts by the Voice of National Salvation would stop on Friday, the North Korean news agency KCNA reported.

Since 1970, the clandestine Voice of National Salvation has carried anti-South Korean broadcasts almost around the clock.

Pyongyang maintains that the station is based in South Korea, but Seoul has said it is located in Haeju, a city close to the border with the South.

South Korea also broadcasts to the North.

The Voice of the People radio station, which has been on air since 1986, is believed to broadcast on shortwave from transmitters in the South, although it claims in its announcements to broadcast from Pyongyang.

Proposal

In the latest round of inter-Korean ministerial talks in July, North Korean officials proposed that the two Koreas stop transmitting all propaganda broadcasts, including loudspeaker broadcasts along the border, from 15 August.

Both sides agreed to discuss details later, after the formation of an inter-Korean body to handle social and cultural issues, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

North and South Korea suspended loudspeaker propaganda against each other along the demilitarised zone once before, shortly after the June 2000 summit.

KCNA linked the decision to halt Voice of National Salvation broadcasts to increased contacts between the North and South and a need to "discard the outdated conception of hostility".

"We hope the South side will take a corresponding step to stop the Social Education Programme, Echo of Hope and Voice of the People, all targeted against the North," it added.

In a survey of 103 North Korean defectors in February, 67% of them said they had listened to South Korean radio broadcasts before fleeing their country
Yonhap

Yonhap quoted experts as saying the move suggested that North Korean leaders had "serious concerns about the negative impact South Korean propaganda broadcasts have on North Korean society".

It recalled that in a survey of 103 North Korean defectors in February, 67% of them said they had listened to South Korean radio broadcasts before fleeing their country.

'Ineffective'

Although North Koreans are officially banned from listening to news from outside and radios are modified to receive only programmes broadcast by the state, an increasing number of North Koreans are now accessing information from abroad, human rights groups say.

Whatever motives North Korea has, its move to stop propaganda broadcasts against South Korea is very welcome, and we should reciprocate positively
Hangyore

According to South Korea's Hangyore newspaper, the fact that anti-South propaganda broadcasts "are virtually ineffective in practice" must also have been taken into consideration.

And by moving first to stop the propaganda, the North "scored political points in terms of giving momentum to the mood for reconciliation, co-operation and peace", the paper said.

But, it added, "whatever motives North Korea has, its move to stop propaganda broadcasts against South Korea is very welcome, and we should reciprocate positively".

"If we play down North Korea's decision to stop its broadcasts as a move to ditch an outdated 'drug' and favour continuing our anti-North broadcasts deemed still effective, it is exactly a display of Cold War attitude.

"The day of national reconciliation will come closer when we extend respect and trust, especially in these difficult times," it concluded.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
US official lambastes N Korea
31 Jul 03  |  Asia-Pacific


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