Russia and North Korea’s September agreement to expand technology sharing between the two countries has led to speculation on the possible impact of Russian technology on North Korea’s satellite, missile, and nuclear programs. But according to Voice of the Martyrs Korea Representative Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, one of the most significant impacts of increased Russia-North Korea technological cooperation may hit much closer to home for ordinary North Koreans.
“Russia could provide needed resources and technology to aid North Korea in jamming foreign radio broadcasts,” says Representative Foley.
Foley’s organization currently airs four daily shortwave radio broadcasts into North Korea. She says those broadcasts faced increased jamming efforts in 2023. Now, she and her team are preparing for even greater challenges in 2024.
“Jamming radio broadcasts is expensive, since it requires large amounts of electricity,” says Representative Foley. “North Korea’s increased jamming efforts in 2023 are noteworthy since more jamming means higher cost, and they are willingly paying this higher cost even as other areas of their economy suffer.”
Representative Foley notes that advanced Russian jamming technology could potentially enable North Korea to jam more while spending less, thus reducing ordinary North Koreans’ covert access to foreign radio broadcasts.
“Russia began regular jamming of foreign radio broadcasts in 1948 and by all estimates spent tens of millions of dollars on electricity for jamming throughout the Cold War period,” says Representative Foley. “They developed increasingly efficient and sophisticated jamming strategies which they continue to use today, for example, to try to jam Ukrainian radio communications. Jamming technology may be of interest to North Korean authorities, given the high volume of jamming they do.”
A Voice of the Martyrs Korea volunteer records a sermon by an early Korean Christian for the ministry’s daily radio broadcast into North Korea.
If that happens, Representative Foley says her organization is ready.
“Some of the largest broadcasters struggle because even though their signals may be very strong, they are not able to adjust them,” says Representative Foley. “So if there’s enough electricity, their signal can be partially or completely jammed. But when jamming is attempted against our broadcasts, our broadcast engineers are able to detect it quickly and make adjustments to bypass or limit the effectiveness of the jamming.” She says the organization’s effectiveness in countering North Korea’s rising jamming efforts is “partly experience, partly technology, but mostly prayer.” She asks Christians to join Voice of the Martyrs Korea in what she calls “prayer-jamming the government jamming”.
“Prayer can ‘jam’ the government’s technical jamming efforts, so we should pray for the Lord to grant a clear signal for each of our four gospel radio broadcasts every day,” she says.
Representative Foley says that even though increased jamming presents new challenges for her organization to overcome, she considers the jamming efforts a good sign.
“Increased jamming means that the broadcast is working,” said Representative Foley.
North Korean defectors and South Korean volunteers both record the Voice of the Martyrs Korea radio broadcasts.
Representative Foley says that research from independent private analysts shows that Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s broadcasts have continued to be among the highest-priority information blocking targets of the North Korean authorities. She says that quick-response countermeasures based on daily broadcast monitoring and analysis have significantly mitigated the jamming efforts.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea broadcasts four daily 30-minute-long shortwave radio programs. Each program contains readings of the North Korean dialect Chosun Bible by North Korean voice actors, sermons from early Korean Christians read by Voice of the Martyrs Korea volunteers, and hymns that are popular among North Korean underground Christians, sung by North Koreans. “We do not publicly announce the radio frequencies or broadcast times for security reasons,” says Representative Foley, “And we regularly change the radio frequencies and broadcast times in order to address jamming efforts.”
Representative Foley says that Voice of the Martyrs Korea has received confidential reports from radio industry sources that as many as 10% of the North Korean population may have been exposed to its broadcasts. Representative Foley says that North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea will sometimes comment to her about the broadcasts.
Representative Foley also requests prayers for the broadcasts’ listeners.
“Pray for all North Koreans who hear the gospel, even today,” she says. “Listening to the gospel on shortwave radio is extremely dangerous, and yet we know that only God’s word can bring true life to those living in danger.”
Individuals interested in hearing the Voice of the Martyrs Korea daily radio broadcasts into North Korea can listen online, at http://www.podbbang.com/ch/1768188. More information about Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s North Korea radio broadcasts is available at www.vomkorea.com/en/radio. Individuals interested in helping to prepare the broadcasts can contact Voice of the Martyrs Korea at 02-2065-0703.