North Korea reinstalls loudspeakers at border

SEOUL • North Korea is reinstalling loudspeakers that blare propaganda across the border in its latest step away from inter-Korean peace agreements, prompting the South's military to explore similar moves, according to a South Korean military source yesterday.

Tension between the two Koreas has risen in recent weeks after the North blew up a joint liaison office on its side of the border, declared an end to dialogue and threatened military action.

North Korea's military was seen putting up loudspeakers near the demilitarised zone. Such systems were taken down after the two Koreas signed an accord in 2018 to cease "all hostile acts", the military official said, adding: "We're also considering reinstalling our own loudspeakers. But the North hasn't begun any broadcast yet, and we're just getting ready to be able to counteract at any time."

A spokesman at Seoul's defence ministry declined to confirm North Korea's moves, but reiterated at a regular briefing that Pyongyang would "have to pay for the consequences" if it continues to defy joint efforts to foster peace.

The two countries have for decades pumped out propaganda from huge banks of speakers as a form of psychological warfare.

The South aired a blend of news, Korean pop songs and criticism of the northern regime, while the North blasted the South and praised its own socialist system.

Commercial satellite imagery of the liaison office site showed the building still standing, but heavily damaged. Analysts at the US-based 38 North, which tracks North Korea, said the explosion "was clearly not a controlled detonation, as the building was not levelled and there was significant collateral damage to the adjacent buildings".

Pyongyang's recent actions came as it denounced North Korean defectors in the South for sending propaganda leaflets across the border. Several defector-led groups regularly send fliers, food, US$1 bills, mini radios and USB sticks containing South Korean dramas and news over the border, usually by balloon or in bottles in rivers.

Seoul has pursued legal action to stop such acts, citing safety concerns for residents in border towns.

Pyongyang's state media on Monday said North Koreans have also prepared some 12 million leaflets to be sent back.


Correction note: An earlier version of the caption wrongly identified Kim Il Sung as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's father. We are sorry for the error.  

A balloon banner showing (from left) North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, his late grandfather Kim Il Sung and sister Kim Yo Jong caught in a tree on the South Korean side of the border yesterday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2020, with the headline 'North Korea reinstalls loudspeakers at border'. Print Edition | Subscribe