BBC Korean Service ‘targeting’ listeners in North Korea, say experts | World | News

But experts claim the BBC is targeting listeners in North Korea as tensions on the Korean peninsula continue to escalate. 

BBC News Korean began broadcasting on September 25, as part of a £291m expansion of the corporation’s World Service. 

The broadcaster said the service would “build on the long-standing reputation for fairness and impartiality the BBC World Service has earned all over the world”. 

“Audiences in the Korean peninsula and Korean speakers around the world can now hear radio broadcasts and access the latest news online,” it added.

North Korea analysts said the new service offered an important additional voice for North Koreans looking for news and information from outside the rogue state. 

BBC News Korean is being broadcast for three hours a day and feature a daily 30-minute show featuring news, sport, culture and business. 

It also features an English language learning service teaching listeners simple phrases. 

According to Washington-based North Korea monitor 38 North, there is “little doubt” the BBC’s real target is North Korea, even if the broadcaster itself said the service was for the “Korean peninsula”.

Listening to foreign radio is illegal in North Korea, but defectors have spoken of “listening to overseas broadcasts, some crediting the programs with helping them make up their minds whether to defect.”

Traditionally they have listened to the broadcast late at night when there is less chance of being discovered. BBC News Korean will be broadcast from midnight until 3am Pyongyang time.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC radio signal was already being jammed by North Korea on its short and medium wave frequency on its first day of broadcasting, experts in South Korea said.

Martyn Williams, for 38 North, said: “The full broadcast is carried on two shortwave frequencies, from Taiwan and Tashkent, and the middle hour is relayed on mediumwave, from Mongolia.

“Mediumwave is more common than shortwave on North Korean radios, so it’s a smart choice, but the signal from Mongolia will be weak by the time it reaches Pyongyang. 

“Shortwave signals will be stronger, but the BBC still faces a battle in getting a good signal into North Korea.

“As listening to foreign radio is illegal, the government makes a great effort to prevent people from doing so. 

“At the most basic level, it modifies radios so they cannot be tuned into anything but state-run channels, although that can be later reverse engineered.”

He said: “On its first evening of broadcasts to North Korea, both BBC shortwave channels were aggressively targeted.

“It wasn’t possible to evaluate whether the mediumwave channel was also targeted.” has contacted the BBC for comment on 38 North’s analysis. 

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