SOMEONE IN CHINA IS RECORDING NORTH KOREAN RADIO broadcasts in English and posting the audio online. If you’re interested in keeping up with who’s being idolized or purged, or whether songun is in or out, this should be interesting listening.
I listened long enough to hear the North Koreans call on all South Koreans to bow down before the Great General and Lodestar of the Nation, which is funny until you realize that 23 million people have to bear this each day of their lives. It may take some concentration to convince yourself that this isn’t a dramatization, and that it was broadcast just days ago.
Short wave is dying, and that’s probably because much of the information you could only get from short wave then is on the Internet without the static. I, for one, will miss it. Can you imagine being interested in world events and having no sources but the three droll choices of Brokaw, Rather, and Jennings? A superficial five-minute gloss of world-changing events between sports scores, weather, water-skiing squirrels, and Effordent commercials? Meh.
I remember how the networks most of the early signs of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, clinging to the last to the idea that Gorby would give us Stalinism with a Smiley Face or somesuch. I remember hearing the BBC report on an obscure, ethnically-tinged 1986 riot in the Kazakh S.S.R., the unfolding Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, the caustic public reaction to the Leninakan earthquake, and the outbreak of civil war in Nagorno-Karabakh. I realized what those things foretold, and I never would have heard about them anywhere else.
BBC and Voice of America short-wave broadcasts became my main news sources, but my main sources of entertainment were the stations I agreed with the least — Saddam’s Radio Baghdad, apartheid-era Radio South Africa, Radio Havana (“free territory in the Americas!“) and the most entertaining of all, the Orwellian, creepy Radio Berlin International from East Germany. I rememember hearing them days before the Wall fell, and again, days later, when they had become just another European news station without missing a beat … as if they’d never been anything else.
The first time I went overseas, in 1990, I bought a cheap portable Panasonic short wave in the small mining town of Randfontein, where I lived and worked for a few months, not so far from Johannesburg. One day at work, while listening to the BBC, I remember hearing that Iraq had invaded Kuwait and that there would soon be war within easy missile range of a place to which I had just booked and bought a non-refundable airline ticket.
Ten days later, while staying in a Palestinian village in East Jerusalem, I was tuning around with some anxious interest in whether I was about to get slimed with some of those weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein didn’t have, except when he did. In one of those unusual questions we collect during our our lives and never expect to answer, I was only able to pick up two audible English language stations — one from Seoul, and one from Pyongyang.
Admittedly, North Korean radio was interesting to hear and a nice “get,” and not unlike what you can hear at this link today, although it didn’t tell me much about the immediate urgency of finding myself a gas mask. (Thanks to a reader for the tip.)
NOW, LET’S REVERSE THE ROLES. What do we learn? That the word “reciprocity” doesn’t translate well into the North Korean dialect, now that more private South Korean organizations broadcast into North Korea:
The Fatherland Reunification and Democracy Front, North Korea’s organization for dealing with South Korea, criticized “South Korea’s conservatives, in collusion with the right-wing conservatives from the U.S. and Japan, who have strengthened broadcasting against North Korea and have called for a historical and systematic showdown against the same race.” [Daily NK, emphasis mine]
Isn’t it cute when they get all ein-volk-ein-reich on us?
Later, the North hints that it “will not watch indifferently as the South’s conservatives and U.S.-Japanese reactionaries threaten our regime and provoke our dignity by clinging to strategic broadcasting.”
Yes, these are the people our State Department wishes it could de-list as state sponsors of terrorism.