TVOM Radio Broadcasts
New Information Available on NK Radio Listenership
Recently, we were given access to a series of studies done by a US congressionally funded non-profit that supports “anti-censorship” in areas like North Korea. This group did two surveys over the past 10 years regarding different forms of technology used inside of North Korea and produced two detailed reports. We will share some of the conclusions below, specifically as it relates to short-wave and medium-wave radio broadcasts, in order to see anew the incomparable value of radio for our work.
Radio vs. New Technologies
It is tempting to think of North Korea as somehow “backwards” when it comes to technology. The truth is that most North Koreans have both TVs and DVD players in their homes. Most NKs have access to a mobile phone (though the cell network is restricted to NK calling alone). And almost half of all North Koreans have access to an MP3 player.
In light of the increasing technology, a fair question to ask might be, “Are people still listening to the radio?” It would make sense that as more people are watching TV and listening to MP3 players, radio listenership would diminish.
However, this particular survey found the opposite to be true. It said,
Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported listening to foreign radio in North Korea. While some substitution may be occurring as new forms of media become more widely available, the number of radio listeners have remained largely stable across the years. (Compromising Connectivity, pg. 10)
Twenty-nine percent of the population would roughly be around 7,000,000 (higher than previously estimated in our VOMK reports). While it’s important to note that this group of surveyed defectors may not accurately represent how all NKs live and feel, this particular statistic is similar to other past studies about radio listenership.
While there are many technology choices available to NKs, foreign radio broadcasts remain the only source of real-time “outside information” available in North Korea. This is also combined with the fact that clear radio reception is available across the whole country. For these reasons, NKs continue to “tune-in” on a regular basis despite the risks associated with listening to foreign radio.
One young NK said,
Of course I prefer DVDs to the radio, although I didn’t stop listening to radio programs. The number of people who wish to listen (to radio) doesn’t decline; it only grows. As time goes by, people want to own more DVDs and gain access to more radio programs (A Quiet Opening, pg. 27).
In a place like North Korea, the demand for outside information is far greater than the supply. And even with the constant introduction of new technology to NK, North Koreans continue to consistently tune-in to both short-wave and medium-wave (AM) foreign radio broadcasts.
Despite our strong commitment to radio, we definitely don’t ignore other forms of technology. In the UNKCM and the NK Bible Distribution projects, we distribute thousands of MP3/MP4 players, USB and SD cards. Multiple distribution streams distributing God’s word to multiple places and demographics remains key to our strategy of supporting the NK underground church in the evangelism and discipleship of North Koreans.
This “multiple ways” strategy also applies to radio itself and is the reason we do both short-wave and AM broadcasts. The primary advantage of AM broadcasts is that more NKs have access to AM-capable radios. These AM radios are widely available and are not illegal in and of themselves (though they are required to be hard-tuned to the government frequency). The advantage of short-wave radio broadcasts is that these signals are strong and clear over extremely long distances and the signals are more difficult to jam. These short-wave radios, while illegal, are smuggled from China and are inexpensive and free-tuning.
WOM is the Best Way to Get Information in North Korea
The best way to spread information inside of North Korea is still WOM . . . Word of Mouth – the oldest technology available. Despite the dangers of being reported to the government, 98% of those surveyed shared that they knew someone who routinely shared information that was not publically or officially available (A Quiet Opening, pgs. 10-11).
This may seem strange, as it is widely known that friends/neighbors/family members report each other to the government. This would make WOM seem extremely dangerous. But WOM is actually quite common and consistent in countries where there is a tightly controlled media environment, like North Korea (A Quiet Opening, pg. 10). Additionally, North Korea is a very group/family oriented culture and WOM within this context makes sense. Of course NKs are very saavy and careful with whom they share sensitive information with.
WOM means that any information heard on the radio has a far greater reach and “shelf-life” than any survey numbers would indicate. The author of the two surveys even surmised that the “WOM reach” is greater than the initial listening audience. He said, “this means that there is likely a larger secondary audience for information via radio broadcasts than the primary audience that actually tunes in (Compromising Connectivity, pg. 13).”
Please Join with us in Prayer for the Following Requests:
아래 기도 제목으로 함께 기도해주세요.
- Pray for God’s Word to be heard on radio in NK. Every night NKs risk everything to listen to foreign radio broadcasts in North Korea. Jamming from the NK government, environmental interferences and neighbors who report those who listen to foreign radio can make it difficult and even deadly for NKs to tune in. But we know that God’s Word is not bound and that close to 30% of NKs regularly listen to broadcasts like ours. Pray for clear signals and for open hearts to hear God’s word.
- Pray for North Koreans as they share the gospel with other North Koreans. Some North Koreans who hear the gospel on the radio share this content with other NKs – close family members or friends. This is very dangerous and can result in being sent to a concentration camp and then martyrdom. NKs who share in this way are aware of the dangers and the consequences. Please pray for boldness and wisdom for NKs who share gospel radio content with others.
자주 묻는 질문
What's new in NK radio ministry?
We’ve recently been updating the way in which we broadcast into NK. We learned that TV news broadcasting in NK has more of the sound of our old style broadcast but radio broadcasting in NK is using warmer personal voices these days. Our broadcast is pioneering the use of a combined NK/SK announcing corps, with NKs and SKs interacting about the Bible and the Christian faith in friendly voices. It’s very revolutionary and we think it will attract a wider range of listeners. We are also excited to be broadcasting between program segments the new NK hymns that were recorded as part of last year’s Hymnal Project. These songs were recorded in the traditional NK style and sung by former members of art performance teams in North Korea. We expect that their traditional voices will touch North Koreans’ hearts through the North Korean classical style hymns.
Listen to Amazing Grace in North Korean!
Listen to As The Deerin North Korean!
Listen to God Is So Good in North Korean!
What do we broadcast into North Korea?
Our radio broadcasts are produced by our North Korean Underground University students. In the broadcasts the students share Scripture—both in its pure form and in the North Korean-style dramas which hold such interest for our audience. They read from books on Christian persecution to help underground believers there understand why they face the challenges they do and how to bear up under them.
There are also discipleship training segments, songs (often rewritten versions of North Korean “hymns” originally designed to praise Kim Il Sung), and—for the first time this year—“live” segments where our announcers reflect on their own experiences and explain what are often the very new and foreign words and concepts of Scripture.
How many North Koreans listen to the broadcast?
There are an estimated 2 million North Koreans who tune into their illegal radios each evening.
Does the North Korean government try to block our broadcasts?
Our broadcast is the regular target of ultimately unsuccessful blocking attempts of the North Korean government. The blocking attempts are the best indicators we have of how threatening the NK regime considers our broadcast to be. One of the ways that we overcome the blocking is through our active team of engineers who do whatever it takes on a nightly basis to enable the broadcast to be heard.
It is likely that our broadcast is threatening to NK not only because it is Christian but also because it is voiced by North Koreans. Many broadcasts use South Korean voices. Not only does this make the broadcast harder for North Koreans to understand, but the regime likely considers South Korean voices of evangelism to be less threatening than North Korean voices of evangelism.
Do you have any testimonies of North Koreans listening to the radio?
JKS, a North Korean defector, shared her experience of listening to the radio while she was in North Korea, she came to South Korea in 2006. She said that she listened to the radio for 3 months with her friends just before she left the North. She said that it was quite easy to receive the gospel radio programs and other radio programs from South Korea because she lived in a border area. Here is the story of JKS’ experience of listening to the radio in North Korea:
One night, we closed the door and listened to the radio under the blanket. At the moment that I listened to the radio from South Korea, it was not only amazing but also tears pricked my eyes because of our nation’s state of division.From that point on, I kept listening to radio broadcasts from South Korea with my father. We realized that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un and their followers are untruthful. I sometimes got furious with them.Later, after I arrived in South Korea, when I talked with my home folks, there were some people who also listened to South Korean radio broadcasts in North Korea. They said that they covered themselves with blankets and agreed that the best time for listening to the radio was from 10 pm to 2:30 am.