2004 December 07 Tuesday
US To Spend Couple Million To Smuggle Radios Into North Korea

Barry Briggs of North Korea zone has a reference to a new US government effort to smuggle radios into North Korea.

For the next four years, Washington will spend up to $2 million annually to boost radio broadcasts toward North Korea and send mini-radios across its borders. How to smuggle the radios in remains to be worked out.

The North Korean government is upset by this meager attempt to reach the North Korean people and let them know how pathetic their lives are as compared to other nations in the region.

Also Saturday, North Korea's state-run daily Minju Joson accused Washington of trying to topple the North Korean regime by smuggling tiny radios into the isolated country, where all state-issued radios are preset to receive only government signals.


The American plan to smuggle small radios into North Korea is outlined in the North Korean Human Rights Act, which President Bush signed into law Oct. 18. The sweeping act provides money to private humanitarian groups to assist defectors, extends refugee status to fleeing North Koreans and sets in motion a plan to boost broadcasts to North Korea and get receivers into the country.

That two million dollars per year is a meager effort. The US burn rate in Iraq is $5.8 bil per month. So 12*5.8/52 is the amount per week and divided by 168 is the amount per hour which is 8 million per hour. So this plan to smuggle radios into North Korea has a yearly cost of 15 minutes worth of the Iraq burn rate.

The United States has greatly reduced food aid to North Korea in recent years but the United States still gave North Korea over $35 million in food aid in 2003 or about 17 times the amount that the US wil spend on radios to undermine the North Korean regime.

If one listens to the rhetoric coming out of Washington then nuclear proliferation is an important priority for the Bush Administration. But a count of the Benjamins is hard to reconcile with the official rhetoric. I do not think that Bush Administration policy toward North Korea and Iran will prevent either country from building up nuclear arsenals. The United States and its allies lost an excellent opportunity in the late 1990s to push the regime into collapse by cutting off aid to North Korea when its economic crisis was most severe. At this point the regime's survival seems more assured than it did in the 1990s. I find it increasingly difficult to take the Bushies seriously on foreign policy.

Thanks to Vinod for the heads-up on this.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 December 07 02:51 PM  Korea

A Berman said at December 7, 2004 5:59 PM:

I would say that 2 million a year is not a small amount of money for a test effort. It has to work well enough to weaken North Korea, but not so well and so publically as to convince North Korea to start shelling South Korea. Meanwhile, it also can't be public enough to get the South Koreans to put a stop to it. AND, despite all the ad-hoc info, we are talking about something that might not work at all.

If it is successful, and the political repercussions are not negative, we might see more of it.

Randall Parker said at December 7, 2004 7:49 PM:


The radios the US was (is?) distributing in Afghanistan cost $20 per radio. Well, this 2 million dollar effort has much higher administrative and delivery costs than the effort in Afghanistan. Some radios might need to be released from submarines near the North Korea coast in hopes they'd float onto beaches and be found. Some would get found by government troops. Some would float away. Some would wash up and not be found by anyone. Similar problems pertain to balloon delivery. The cost of delivering one radio successfully to one North Korean might be $100. So the 2 million might reach 20,000 North Koreans. Well, there are 22.7 million people in North Korea. So this effort might reach a tenth of a percent of the North Koreans and that assumption might be excessively optimistic.

We need millions spent per delivery mechanism to try out different delivery mechanisms. There are lots of delivery mechanisms to try. For example:

- Balloons.
- Submarines to release floating packages.
- Put radios on North Korean ships in foreign ports.
- Pay North Korean guards or smugglers to bring them across the border from China. This means building up a secretr network in China to do this.

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