World News

South Korea to End Propaganda Broadcasts Along Border With North

Posted April 30, 2018 1:48 a.m. EDT

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said on Monday that it would begin this week to dismantle the loudspeakers that have broadcast propaganda across the border into North Korea for decades, the first step toward implementing an agreement the country’s leaders reached during their summit meeting on Friday.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry made the announcement about the loudspeakers shortly after North Korea’s legislative body, the Supreme People’s Assembly, adopted a decree to synchronize the North’s time zone with the South.

The North adopted “Pyongyang Time” in 2015, which put its clocks 30 minutes behind the South. Beginning on Thursday, North Korea will be on the same time as the South, nine hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time, the North said through its official Korean Central News Agency.

South Korea said it would start on Tuesday to dismantle its network of propaganda loudspeakers along the 155-mile-long border, pulling back one of its most potent weapons of Cold War-era psychological warfare.

Day and night, the loudspeakers blared bouncy music and criticism of the poverty and human rights abuses in the North. The broadcasts have so annoyed the North that its military once fired shots across the border. North Korea also broadcast loudspeaker propaganda, blaring communist music and a eulogy of its “great leader.”

Days before Friday’s summit meeting between President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, the South switched off the broadcast temporarily as a goodwill gesture. During their meeting, Moon and Kim adopted a broad declaration aimed at improving inter-Korean ties, including a mutual vow to “completely cease all hostile acts against each other,” including loudspeaker propaganda along the border.

Although it was not included in the official summit agreement, the North’s decision to abolish Pyongyang Time, named after its capital, was made personally by Kim, South Korean officials said.

“I don’t understand why they keep creating things that would perpetuate the division,” Kim said on Friday, according to a South Korean government spokeswoman, Koh Min-jeong, referring to the North’s 2015 decision to create a new time zone. “We must try instead to unify.”

“It took me only a few yards of walking to reach South Korea today, but I am in a different time zone,” Kim added. “This is nonsense.”

Kim stressed the importance of implementing the summit meeting’s agreements, South Korean officials said. The most important decision the two leaders reached on Friday was the recognition of “complete denuclearization” as a common goal, and a pledge to create conditions that would lead to “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.”

Skeptics, however, doubt that Kim will truly dismantle all of his nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, the South Korean government said Kim had told Moon that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agreed to formally end the Korean War and promise not to invade his country.