2003 August 11 Monday
Radio Smuggling Campaign: Give the Ear to a North Korean

A group is going to start smuggling radios into the most isolated country in the world: North Korea.

The North Korean government's monopoly on news inside the Stalinist state is being challenged by South Korean activists, who plan to float radios across the border carried by helium baloons.

The initial shipments will be done by balloons.

They plan to fly more than 20 balloons, each six metres tall and carrying about 30 small radios, into North Korea within the next two weeks from either China or South Korea, organizers told a news conference in Seoul, without elaborating.

They are starting out with a small budget.

Organisers estimate the cost of sending the radios at $7,000.

This is a worthwhile cause.

The Free North Korea site has posted a message from a leader of this effort, Korean-American human rights activist Rev. Douglas Shin:

--How are we planning to smuggle these radios?
Over the land (i.e. hand-carried), by sea (eg. in a bottle or by unmanned boat), and by air (eg. by balloon or by UAV—unmanned aerial vehicle or ’drone’). The details are available upon request by relevant parties.

--How can you help?
Each package will include one solar-powered radio, one sheet of waterproof paper containing whatever printed message the donor wants to send (eg. Christian tract, freedom notice, introduction to the donor), and a 500-won North Korean note to buy a few kilos of rice with. The radios cost about $20 right now and the price is going down.

The donor can contribute with money, their radios (must be light, compact, and solar-powered), logistical support, manpower (eg. participation with the smuggling by all means), and/or even broadcast contents. In addition to two South Korean and two American radio stations that broadcast daily to North Korea, it costs about $180 for an hour of airtime for North Korea at a commercial transmission service such as VT Merlin.

--Where can you send help?
You can send your support to Korean Peninsula Peace Project, a California non-profit corporation in Los Angeles:

11901 E. 176th Street #144
Artesia, CA 90701

+1-562-458-5744 (mobile)

Website (soon to open): www.freenorthkorea.org

The idea of using an unmanned boat is pretty clever. If the North Koreans come across the boat they won't be able to kill anyone. A boat could be preprogrammed to follow a course and guide itself using GPS. They'd just need some sort of device that could trigger at a desired location to release the sealed radios into the water near a coastline and then the boat could return toward South Korea.

(thanks to Tom Holsinger for the heads-up on this)

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 August 11 08:13 PM  Korea

John Moore (Useful Fools) said at August 12, 2003 11:54 PM:

I think that this idea fails to fully appreciate the depth of the totalitarianism in North Korea. Anyone even touching one of these radios would have his life ruined if caught. Listening would probably lead to instant execution. Having one fall near your house or in your field might be enough for a North Korean and his family to be sent to the gulag. North Korea makes the USSR under Stalin seem a free society by comparison!

In other words, this nice sounding idea is positively dangerous to the people it is meant to help, and should not be done!

Bob said at August 13, 2003 8:08 AM:

All the more reason to do it, John.

When we fought to free Europe from the Nazis, did we let civilian casualties in occupied countries stop us? When we fought the cold war, did we Stalin's reprehensible acts or the acts of any of the leaders who came after him deter us?

One cannot get around the fact that war, including cold war, is about breaking things and killing people.

John Moore (Useful Fools) said at August 13, 2003 9:56 PM:

While I agree that we cannot afford to be squeamish, I still think this is a bad idea. The North Koreans know the facts as I posted above. They are not going to listen to the radios. If they do, they won't tell anyone.

North Korea is the most tyrannical regime in modern history. Such regimes do not fall to popular uprisings. They can occasionally fall to coups, but that often doesn't improve anything.

The only way for that regime to fall is for it to be overthrown by external forces or for it to slowly suffocate in its own inefficiency. Unfortunately, the latter can be prevented by coercing neighbors into providing aid, which has been working very well.

If one is willing to wait a very long time, the regime could slowly degenerate (a la USSR) and become more open and prone to instability. It took the USSR 70 years! We can not afford to wait that long.

Also, China may have limited power. North Korea's philosophy is juche, which means self reliance. It developed partly as a result of what North Korea viewed as its betrayal by Russia after the fall of Gorbachev. It implicitly is meant to maintain the regime in the face of "betrayl" by China also.


Randall Parker said at August 13, 2003 11:00 PM:

John, North Korea's Juche philosphy has not prevented it from becoming absolutely dependent on outside aid. China has plenty of power but chooses not to use it. North Korea could not survive sanctions if China joined in.

As for whether the people would listen to the radios: that would be their decision. Some would. Some wouldn't.

As for whether the radios would have any beneficial effects: They'd increase the rate of defections. That would yield valuable intelligence information. Also, if weapons scientists and engineers defected the effect would be to slow the WMD development program. Also, if other essential managers and technical workers defected the economy would be harmed.

Considering what is at stake anything that weakens the regime even in small ways is worth trying. A lot of different small shifts of the conditions there against the regime can add up. We can afford to finance an enormous program to reach the people in North Korea with information from the outside world and that information would weaken the regime. So why not do it?

Michael said at August 14, 2003 8:53 PM:

A survey of North Korean defectors showed that 67% had listened to South Korean broadcasts before leaving. This suggests that the radios will be used, and will increase defections.

TM Lutas said at August 20, 2003 5:58 AM:

One other thing to mull over. If revolution will come, it will likely come from the sons and daughters of the current leadership being convinced that there will be nothing to take over if they don't replicate Romania and knock the old fools off their perch. Even if some poor peasant goes to jail or a shallow grave over this radio that doesn't mean that the radio's use will come to an end. It might just end up being used by some captain to good effect.

If this sounds like throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks, it is. But what's the better alternative?

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