Answer – Up until I started working with Voice of the Martyrs Korea, I often wondered who really listened to shortwave radio broadcasts. I knew of a few Ham radio enthusiasts, but I figured that overall listenership was probably pretty small.
My inkling wasn’t that far off, as over the past fifteen years, shortwave has been in sharp decline. More and more people started turning to satellite radio, AM/FM rebroadcasting and the internet. And as people stopped tuning in, organizations stopped broadcasting on short-wave frequencies.
But according to James Careless of Radio World, shortwave radio still has one distinct advantage over all other mediums.
For all its transmission expense and audio problems, analog shortwave radio has one clear advantage over the Internet and domestic radio/TV: It cannot be easily blocked — even when states try to disrupt its signals using jamming transmitters.
This is why short-wave radio is still popular in a country like North Korea. We estimate that over two million North Koreans listen to short-wave broadcasts with their illegal shortwave radios in order to hear the gospel, learn about the outside world and even learn more about their own country.
Although tuning to any other radio channel except the state media channel is illegal in North Korea, there is no doubt that many NKs go to great lengths to do it anyway. We have been told numerous times by defectors ….. Just this week Mrs. Park told us,
I purchased a radio when I was in China and then brought it back into NK. When I went through customs, the NK government cut all of the wires to the radio so that I could not access any outside radio signals. However, my son re-connected all of the wires so that we were able to listen to it. We would turn it on secretly at night and listen to it under the covers. I was the leader of the village so I was watched and had to be extremely careful.
Radio is one of the primary ways that NKs learn the truths (and lies!) about their own country. Mrs. Kim did not even know that labor camps existed in NK. She shared this testimony with us…
I only listened to the radio one time in North Korea. It was the first time I heard South Korean voices and realized that our dialects are different. Through listening to the broadcast, I found out about one of the labor camps in NK.
NKs are now even hearing the dialect of their own people as they tune their radios in to listen. Mrs. Kim shared this with us,
I recently met a man in SK who listened to the radio in NK. He said it was difficult to hear everything on the broadcast, but he was so surprised to hear North Korean voices announcing the broadcast.
These testimonies give evidence to the fact that there is still no doubt that short-wave radio is an effective method of communicating the gospel to those in North Korea whom we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.