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This news is an update of an ongoing project:

Japan to Launch Radio Channel Targeting N.Korea
(Chosun Ilbo, 07/06/07)

The Japanese government will launch a radio channel for North Korea focusing on Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang. A Japanese government official on Wednesday said the channel will be launched in July and is different from the privately-run Shiokaze channel that started broadcasting for North Korea in late March. Shiokaze is run by an activist group calling itself Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea.

The new state-run Japanese radio will focus on the Japanese government’s position on the abduction issue, messages from victims’ families, and efforts to have them sent back to Japan. Shiokaze recently reported the new channel would carry official messages about the Japanese government’s position. A staffer with Free North Korea Radio, a South Korean radio station targeting North Korea, said the state-run Japanese channel will broadcast for an hour a day, half in Korean and half in Japanese. The radio is under the supervision of the Japanese Foreign Ministry and a Cabinet committee dealing with the abduction question.

South Korea’s only official radio channel targeting North Korea is KBS Social Education Service. But the channel is mostly educational and targets not only North Korea but also Korean nationals living in northern regions such as the Maritime Province of Siberia and China. In South Korea, there are four civilian radios for North Korea led by North Korean refugees or activists for human rights in North Korea, including Free North Korea Radio and Open Radio for North Korea, which transmit their programs using frequencies of a British shortwave service provider.

Kim Seung-min, the founder of Free North Korea Radio, said the launch of the state-run Japanese radio is a graphic example showing the Abe administration’s “determination to pressure North Korea.”

This isn’t exactly a new development, only that it is almost operational. Many of you may remember the scandal over NHK programming (and their order to drop a particular programme by the government) nearly two years ago, just one of many such outrages. Well, at the same time, the government ordered NHK to launch a short-wave station to broadcast abduction-issue propaganda into North Korea. Furthermore, the victims’ families have been broadcasting Shiokaze (sea breeze) since October 2005, with at least one frequency change due to North Korean jamming, hence the reference to March in the above article.

So, what is new here? The Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN) are essentially getting support from the Abe cabinet… instead of there being just one Korean/Japanese-language propaganda station, now there are two, double the bandwidth. I very much doubt the two will differ too much, Shiokaze is certainly more likely to be more personal, appealing to the abductees and those that know them, whereas the government run station will no doubt be slightly more formal. For all intents and purposes, the tone and message are likely to be nigh-on identical.

We are left with the question of how many abductees are left to listen? If North Korea told the absolute truth, then there are less than 5 (based on the Japanese government’s official figures, not those of COMJAN) still alive and in North Korea. It certainly seems a lot of money to spend when they could simply have funded Shiokaze and boosted its operations. Regardless, there are certainly wider politics at play, which at this time of night are unknown to me.

Any thoughts on the issue?

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