Radio Pyongyang: the International Broadcasting Service of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Radio Pyongyang, now nominally known as the Voice of Korea, disseminates the views of the world's last Stalinist regime. Day after day, Kim Jong Il spreads his patent mix of paranoia and chorale far and away from the Potemkin village he calls cult compound.

Radio Pyongyang's programming falls into three profound categories: polemic, polemic, and rousing worker's anthems. Most broadcasts begin with either the national anthem or song of praise to the Dear Leader, followed by attacks on the United States and their 'puppet' South Korea from the reliable Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Never mind South Korea's developed country status: nothing beats Kim Jong Il's personality cult, and what little the outside world knows about the hermit kingdom arrives from his external service.

Not suprisingly, Radio Pyongyang focuses on Japan, China (both of which have sizeable Korean populations), as well as South Korea. Radio Pyongyang figures prominently in North Korea's monitoring of foreign activities, especially in enemies (and fertile stalking grounds) Japan and South Korea. While most other nations divorce clandestine operations from broadcasting, Radio Pyongyang frequently includes numbers transmissions within East Asian services. At one time, Radio Pyongyang included RTTY (teletype) messages within the broadcast schedule. Clearly, Radio Pyongyang's scatterbrained broadcasts betray the collective psychosis of this Branch Davidianesque phenomenon writ large, quite large.

Although anything out of North Korea must be taken with caution, Radio Pyongyang provides a glimpse into DPRK internal affairs. Take for example the decision to rebroadcast some of John Kerry's speeches made during his 2004 presidential bid. As rumored in conservative circles, Radio Pyongyang's rebroadcast signaled hope of a detente in US-DPRK nuclear disarmament. Sketchy, yes, but the best info the West has to divine the Dear Leader's madness.

Given my position in the northeast United States, I have not yet been able to receive a strong, intelligble Radio Pyongyang signal. Complicating my efforts is the station's penchant for arbitrary frequency deviation. I suggest beginning with the current WRTH frequency handbook and then looking around on shortwave radio DX groups for latest frequency postings. Tune around the frequency plus or minus 10 kHz around the transmission start time, and remember that Radio Pyongyang may not broadcast within the 5 kHz spacings usually associated with AM international broadcasters. Consider using a directional antenna, such as an 'active' electric loop to null out unwanted stronger signals. Reception will be best on the North American west coast, though summertime openings to points east are certainly possible. In the meantime, keep your ears peeled for the soaring anthems of a nation perpetually manic.


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