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Holstering the K-Pop, South Korea Silences Propaganda at the DMZ

Over the weekend, Mr. Kim announced an end to all nuclear and long-range missile tests and the shutting down of his country’s only known nuclear test site.

South Korean officials said the North was expected to reciprocate the South’s initiative by turning off its own propaganda loudspeakers. Because of electricity shortages in the North, its loudspeakers have not been as powerful as the South’s, South Korean military officials said.

For decades, loudspeakers have been a fixture along the border, beckoning soldiers to defect to the other side. In November, a North Korean soldier defected to the South in Panmunjom, fleeing through a hail of gunfire by fellow North Korean soldiers.

Day and night, songs eulogizing the North’s “fatherly” leader and communist propaganda lamenting “depraved capitalist” lifestyles have drifted across the border to the South.

For their part, South Korean loudspeakers denounced hunger and human rights violations in the North, highlighting the number of cars and other signs of affluence in the South. Lately, it added K-pop music to the mix. South Korea hoped that its propaganda barrage would undermine the personality cult surrounding the ruling Kim family in the North.

In 2015, Mr. Kim ordered his front-line military units to go on a “semi-war state” after the two Koreas exchanged rocket and artillery fire. He ordered his front-line units to prepare to attack South Korean loudspeakers along the border unless they stopped blaring propaganda.

The two Koreas decommissioned their loudspeakers after their ties improved following their first summit meeting in 2000. But they switched them on again as their relations soured. The propaganda war across their heavily armed border escalated after the North conducted its fourth nuclear test in early 2016.

But anti-North Korean activists in the South vowed to continue to send propaganda balloons, which carry dollar bills, transistor radios, CDs containing Western movies and leaflets that call Mr. Kim a pig.

Some of the activists complained that the police tried to stop their balloon campaign as South Korea cultivated its rapprochement with the North.

In the past, the South Korean authorities have tried to discourage the balloon campaign when relations with Pyongyang have improved or the North has threatened to fire across the border to shoot down the balloons.

Source: NYT > World

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