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BBC to Start North Korean Broadcasts

The UK’s public broadcaster BBC is to begin broadcasting to North Korea.

The move was announced by the British Broadcasting Corporation itself over the week end and is part of a package of new initiatives proposed by Director General, Tony Hall.

The proposed North Korean activity would consist of a daily radio news program provided by the BBC’s existing World Service and delivered by short wave radio.

North Korea is possibly the world’s most isolated and information-starved nation, and is often described in the West as “The Hermit Kingdom.” Media is tightly controlled by president Kim Jong-un’s regime, with foreign media not permitted and access to the Internet limited.

The BBC’s proposal comes only weeks after North and South Korea backed down from a cross border skirmish that began with the resumption of propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts by the South. The conflict escalated to live firing across the border by the armies of both countries, before negotiations led to the removal of the arrays of audio equipment on the southern side.

North and South Korea have taken vastly different political and economic tracks since the ending of the civil war in 1953 – the North (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) becoming a dictatorship and one of the poorest countries on earth, the South (Republic of Korea) a parliamentary democracy with a booming economy.

The two countries are technically still at war as they signed an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, at the end of the Korean War.

North Korea was lampooned last year in “The Interview.” Sony, the Hollywood studio responsible for the movie, subsequently saw its computer system and emails hacked into and disrupted. The U.S. government directly blamed the North Korean government for the revenge attack.

The BBC is coming under severe British government pressure to cut budgets and slash its public service mandate. Hall says that his proposals represent an “open” BBC, rather than an expansionist one.

Other initiatives proposed by Hall include: a satellite TV service for Russian speakers or a bigger digital presence on platforms such as YouTube and its Russian equivalent, Rutube; more regional content for the BBC Arabic Service, with increased coverage of North Africa and the Middle East; and a news service for Ethiopia and Eritrea on medium wave and short wave radio.

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