Friday, March 25, 2016

North Korean regime intensifies signal jamming against foreign radio broadcasts

North Korea has been from the beginning of March continually signal jamming radio broadcasts on the shortwave frequency used by the South Korean non-profit broadcaster Unification Media Group (UMG). Given the present situation, in which North Korean residents might be influenced by outside information condemning the regime and explaining the purpose of the sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the regime has showed the will to block sources of outside information that might cause unrest. The shortwave frequency band in question, 7515Khz, has been actively jammed starting on March 1st making it extremely difficult for North Korean listeners to tune in.

On the 15, UMG organization began using three receivers to test out reception at that and adjacent frequencies on a daily basis and was able to confirm that the exact signal is being jammed. The blocking effort is being concentrated on the time period from 10pm- midnight. Specifically, from 10-11pm the jamming is very strong. The signal jamming is undetectable from midnight to 1am. The signal blocking became weaker at midnight on March 15, from which point onward the entire three hour broadcast was audible. Starting on the 17, UMG moved the frequency, but the jamming operators seemed not to notice because the interference continued on the old wavelength. Unification Media Group estimates that the North Korean authorities are the responsible party. From the very outset of the consortium's radio leg, which dates back to December 2005, the regime has frequently looked for ways to jam its frequencies.

While sporadic jamming has been common over the past decade, it has had limited impact on receivers. However, starting from March of this year, stronger jamming signals have been deployed. The result: fuzzy reception and sometimes even completely blocked signals. This is the first time that such a strong jamming effort has been continuously maintained. “This is the strongest signal jam in the last few years.  As the regime is pushed into further isolation by the strongest round of sanctions yet, they have become concerned that the residents will be awakened by exposure to outside information,” Unification Media Group (UMG) President Lee Gwang Baek said. “North Korean authorities can not signal jam at high strength across multiple channels, so right now, the most effective thing to do would be to expand our frequencies and signal strength. We need direct [South Korean] government assistance to do that.” If the government grants permission for civil society organizations broadcasting to North Korea to use the former's powerful and far-reaching medium wavelengths to transmit radio content to North Korea, the broadcasts would be able to reach far more people despite the jamming attempts.

About this, National Intelligence Service First Deputy Director Yeom Don Jae said, “The regime’s efforts to block radio signals from South Korean civic groups is actually confirmation of the potency of these broadcasts. This will cause considerable agitation for the listeners who have become accustomed to tuning in to foreign radio.” He added, “Therefore, we need to let the North Korean residents know about this situation and use the strength of the regime as a weapon against them. We need to use multi-dimensional methods to pump the North full of information.” UMG currently broadcasts from 10pm-1am nightly on shortwave frequencies via a transmission station in Dushanbe, Tajikstan.

This content is rebroadcast daily from 3-5:00am on AM and FM frequencies via towers in South Korea’s Gangwon Province; however, these channels are borrowed from other private broadcasters and therefore limited in range and potency relative to those allocated by the government.