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Author Topic: Illicit SWLing in North Korea  (Read 32539 times)
AE5X
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« on: October 24, 2014, 09:54:39 PM »

Here is a book excerpt some SWLers may find interesting:
http://www.ae5x.com/blog/2014/10/24/book-excerpt-illicit-swl-listening/

John AE5X
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VK3DWZ
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« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2014, 04:48:57 AM »

Thanks for this, John.  I have read the book and I found it a very chilling read indeed.  I've always wondered why they did not use telephones (headphones) for covert listening.  I would guess that shortwave listening would be very frustrating with no acess to the Internet, or the World Radio TV Handbook, or similar--one would just have to 'tune around' until a broadcast in Korean was located.  Listening to K.B.S. (South Korea) would be easier as they have very powerful transmitters not far from the North Korean Border that are obviously intended to be heard by those lucky few in the north. The Religious broadcasters with their low-powered transmitters would be not so easily heard.
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AE5X
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« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2014, 07:21:17 AM »

If you're interested in that book, here are a few others of the same subject:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/29/the-best-books-on-north-korea

I found it odd that he could buy a SW radio, yet listening to it is illegal (although he did have to register it at the time of purchase - akin to buying a gun in the US).

They probably didn't use phones because he mentions listening to the broadcasts with groups of friends and family.

John AE5X
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K4JK
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« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2014, 09:55:40 AM »

I remember reading somewhere that the radios available for purchase in NK are somehow channelized (probably in firmware) so that stock they only tune to government approved frequencies.

However as you would expect they are easily modifiable so that they can tune elsewhere. Probably why they have to be registered... they can be later inspected I guess. Guess one of his radios was modified.
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ex W4HFK
W0BTU
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« Reply #4 on: October 31, 2014, 10:10:07 AM »

Does anyone besides me remember the old Radio Free Europe TV ads? I'm guessing this was about 1959; I would have been about 6 years old back then.

It showed a family listening to a radio, and then a Soviet policeman (?) barging in and burying an ax in it, and shouting "NYET!".

IIRC, RFE was asking for donations to keep broadcasting the "truth" to those behind the Iron Curtain. I don't remember any other details.
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VK2NZA
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« Reply #5 on: November 01, 2014, 09:15:34 PM »

Hi everyone,
 Yes WOBTU I remember seeing very graphic RFE advertising against the "Reds". Interestingly I believe RFE and also Radio Liberty were funded by the CIA from the early 50's although that funding finished in the early 70's.
From the perspective of a New Zealander way down in the South Pacific, the propaganda war between the Soviet Union and the USA  was quite entertaining.
I have a Russian friend who laughs at the Soviet rhetoric of the cold war toward the west whilst listening to Jazz on Radio Liberty, he also states that some of the American rhetoric was a bit over the top also.
I remember visiting the RFE Radio Liberty Munich headquarters in 1977/8.  The headquarters were hit by  a massive bomb in 1981 which I believe took out much of the building and injured  a number of people. Wikipedia states that the East German Stasi files later indicated that Carlos the Jackal funded by Nicolae Ceausescu the president of Romania had organised this little party.
I can remember clearly Radio Liberty broadcasting into the Old Soviet Union and the jamming transmissions that would be painful on the ears especially on headphones late at night.
Funnily the Russians exported large shortwave portables to the West and I remember purchasing  a Russian "Selena" branded radio in London  (UK) in the mid seventies so I guess that Russians accessed Western SW transmissions reasonably easily. My Russian friend states that many of his friends furtively listened to Western broadcasts often mainly to access music, jazz, rock and blues. BTW my Russian SW portable was a large radio with good sound but was full of birdies and heterodynes not present on the quality Japanese portables of the era.
The oppression in North Korea is appalling, maybe the South Korean groups who use balloons to drop leaflets and sweets over the border into North korea should drop small Chinese SW radios instead!
     Great thread guys! Thanks Ross VK2NZA
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KJ6ZOL
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« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2014, 10:29:50 AM »

The oppression in North Korea is appalling, maybe the South Korean groups who use balloons to drop leaflets and sweets over the border into North korea should drop small Chinese SW radios instead!
     Great thread guys! Thanks Ross VK2NZA

I heard that in the opening salvo of the Afghanistan war the US dropped cheap SW radios so locals could hear the US propaganda station, can't remember what it was called.
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CHRISTOFERO
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2014, 09:59:58 PM »

I know a bit about this. People are quite frequently publicly executed or sent to a concentration camp (kwaliso) by the Bowibu for listening to radios, watching foreign DVDs,  or making an international phone call.

Many people have tunable radios, the smaller the better,  despite the fact that the price can be very high- your and your families lives or bribes.

Here is a image which gives you an idea of the situation.

http://nkinusa.org/board.php?board=nk52&command=body&no=6&

If any of you hams have good ideas for ways to make HF AM receivers smaller (really small) or more inconspicuous, AND cheap, they need help. We could all wait another 50 years and the regime will just keep on killing people in the most horrible situation imaginable, or we can brainstorm how to make good radios smaller and cheaper and maybe help change something. This is not rocket science. There is just this big need for fresh ideas. They need every idea they can get.

Make a note of this situation and maybe you will have an idea.
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RENTON481
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Posts: 280




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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2014, 11:31:30 PM »

Today's 'ultralight' AM-FM radios (like the Sony SRF-59) are very small and quite sensitive. I wonder if any of them make it to North Korea?
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AE5X
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Posts: 1464




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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2014, 05:39:26 PM »

Does anyone besides me remember the old Radio Free Europe TV ads?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UiHPvwjW4Y

John AE5X
http://www.ae5x.com/blog
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KJ6ZOL
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Posts: 820




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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2014, 07:10:29 PM »

I know a bit about this. People are quite frequently publicly executed or sent to a concentration camp (kwaliso) by the Bowibu for listening to radios, watching foreign DVDs,  or making an international phone call.

Many people have tunable radios, the smaller the better,  despite the fact that the price can be very high- your and your families lives or bribes.

Here is a image which gives you an idea of the situation.

http://nkinusa.org/board.php?board=nk52&command=body&no=6&

If any of you hams have good ideas for ways to make HF AM receivers smaller (really small) or more inconspicuous, AND cheap, they need help. We could all wait another 50 years and the regime will just keep on killing people in the most horrible situation imaginable, or we can brainstorm how to make good radios smaller and cheaper and maybe help change something. This is not rocket science. There is just this big need for fresh ideas. They need every idea they can get.

Make a note of this situation and maybe you will have an idea.

How about a regenerative circuit? Back in the 1930s, American radio manufacturers like Emerson made two tube regen radios that for the era were small and cheap. In the 50s there were the "boy's radios" made by the Japanese and targeted at American teens, that were also regen designs. Those were sold under inconspicuous names like "Americana" to get the radios past Mom and Dad, many of who "remembered Pearl Harbor" and refused to let anything from Japan in their houses. The laws back then were more lax than today on putting country of manufacture on products, and the boy's radios sometimes lacked ANY mention at all of Japan, on the radio or the packaging.

Anyway, I would think that a small regenerative radio, which could be made with two transistors, hooked to the classic anti-jamming antenna that was developed by the Americans for Russian use, might be just what the North Koreans need. I should also note that in Nazi Europe, headphones were usually used by the resistance so that the local Gestapo wouldn't be tipped off. The radios used now in NK seem to use speakers, which require more power and put the user at risk of being discovered. I would think that a regen radio driving a single headphone that would be hidden in the user's ear (like the "earbuds" used in the US) would require less power, be smaller, and be less easy for the secret police to detect.

Edit: Christofero's link shows an NK civilian listening to a radio under a blanket late at night, so I guess they DO use speakers. They need to use earbuds, definitely.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2014, 07:14:15 PM by KJ6ZOL » Logged
W0BTU
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2014, 07:27:07 PM »

A misadjusted regen RX is a transmitter, that would be even easier to detect. Back in the day, they were notorious for that.
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KJ6ZOL
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2014, 07:37:43 PM »

A misadjusted regen RX is a transmitter, that would be even easier to detect. Back in the day, they were notorious for that.

Oh. Shows you how much I know about this stuff.  Roll Eyes
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W1BR
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« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2014, 08:36:50 AM »

A misadjusted regen RX is a transmitter, that would be even easier to detect. Back in the day, they were notorious for that.

Yep..,. and a cheap superhet can radiate a lot of LO energy. That was a major concern during WWII, and many receivers had to under extensive modifications to include extra RF stages and shielding to prevent the enemy from being able to detect a nearby warship by an unwanted radiation signature.

Pete
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W0BTU
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« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2014, 01:35:14 PM »

Does anyone besides me remember the old Radio Free Europe TV ads?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UiHPvwjW4Y

That's a newer one. It doesn't have the Soviet KGB guy burying his ax in the radio and yelling "NYET!".
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