North and South Korea re­sume a 60-year-long shout­ing match

The China Post - - ASIA - BY PARK CHAN- KY­ONG

In a mod­ern, high-tech world of so­phis­ti­cated, sub­lim­i­nal mes­sag­ing, scream­ing taunt­ing mes­sages over banks of loud­speak­ers seems like a de­cid­edly old-school style of pro­pa­ganda.

Retro or not, it has proved ef­fec­tive enough to prompt North Korea to threaten war if South Korea does not switch off the speak­ers it re­cently dusted off and re­trieved from the mil­i­tary at­tic to ha­rangue its ri­val across the bor­der.

The use of loud­speak­ers to de­liver high-deci­bel threats and taunts goes back to the 1950-53 Korean War, when mo­bile units with mounted mega­phones would try to keep pace with the con­flict’s rapidly and wildly shift­ing front­line.

In his book, “Cease Re­sis­tance: It’s Good for You,” Stan­ley San­dler, a his­to­rian for the U.S. Army Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, noted that the mes­sages blast­ing out from North Korean pro­pa­ganda units were about as so­phis­ti­cated as their equip­ment.

“You have ex­pended all your leftover equip­ment from World War II. It will start cost­ing you to con­tinue,” was one less-than-morale­shat­ter­ing ef­fort aimed at U.S. troops.

Af­ter the war ce­mented the di­vi­sion of the Korean Penin­sula, North and South con­tin­ued the loud­speaker bat­tle, mix­ing it up with ra­dio

broad­casts and aerial leaflet­ing.

Chang­ing Themes

The themes fa­vored by both sides were ini­tially quite sim­i­lar — the in­iq­ui­ties of their re­spec­tive so­cial­ist and cap­i­tal­ist sys­tems, the men­dac­ity of their re­spec­tive lead­ers and the com­forts to be found on their re­spec­tive sides of the bor­der.

In the 1980s and ’90s when the South Korean econ­omy re­ally took off, the mes­sage from the South changed as it in­creas­ingly trum­peted its suc­cess and af­flu­ence, while the North strug­gled with hunger and de­pri­va­tion.

With the elec­tion of Kim Daejung as South Korean pres­i­dent in 1998, the con­tent changed again, as Kim’s “Sun­shine Pol­icy” of en­gage­ment with the North brought in a softer tone.

A for­mer South Korean con­script of the time, who saw out his twoyear mil­i­tary ser­vice with a bor­der pro­pa­ganda unit, said the daily diet was largely tit­bits of news and pop songs — old and new.

In many ways, he re­called, the main pri­or­ity was just to make some noise.

“We used to broad­cast for 15 hours through­out the night into the fol­low­ing morn­ing,” the for­mer soldier, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied, told AFP.

Soc­cer Pro­pa­ganda

Another mil­i­tary of­fi­cial re­called how com­men­tary on some of the matches dur­ing the 2002 World Cup — co-hosted by South Korean and Ja­pan — was broad­cast live over the speak­ers to North Korean mil­i­tary units.

“When we asked them through the loud­speak­ers whether they en­joyed it, we could see some sig­nalling back their ap­proval — wav­ing their arms in cir­cles,” the of­fi­cial told online news provider Media To­day.

A sin­gle bat­tery of loud­speak­ers could stand as much as 10 me­ters high, with 70-80 units piled on top of each other.

“The im­pact was greater than you may ex­pect,” said Ju Se­ung Young, a for­mer North Korean soldier as­signed to a unit on the western front be­fore he de­fected to the South in 2002.

“The South Korean loud­speak­ers were a rare source for news about the out­side world,” Ju told the Dong-A Ilbo news­pa­per.

“At first, I thought their broad­casts were all lies. But af­ter be­ing ex­posed for two years straight, I be­gan to be­lieve it,” he added.

Although the South’s loud­speaker units were about 4.5 kilo­me­ters (three miles) away, Ju said the mes­sages could be clearly heard.

By con­trast, the North Korean pro­pa­ganda unit Ju was as­signed to had poor equip­ment and suf­fered con­stant power short­ages that made it im­pos­si­ble to com­pete with the South’s pow­er­ful out­put.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.