South Korea turned off loudspeakers blaring bouncy music and other propaganda into North Korea on Monday, silencing weapons of psychological warfare so annoying to the North that its military once fired shots across the border.
The South’s Defense Ministry said it switched off all batteries of the propaganda loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border, known as the Demilitarized Zone, days before its president, Moon Jae-in, is to join the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, there on Friday for a summit meeting.
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”We hope that our move today will result in South and North Korea ending mutual slandering and propaganda against each other and creating a peaceful new beginning,” the ministry said in a statement.
Over the weekend, Mr. Kim announced an end to all nuclear and long-range missile tests and the shutting down of his country’s only known nuclear test site.
South Korean officials said the North was expected to reciprocate the South’s initiative by turning off its own propaganda loudspeakers. Because of electricity shortages in the North, its loudspeakers have not been as powerful as the South’s, South Korean military officials said.
For decades, loudspeakers have been a Cold War fixture along the border, beckoning soldiers to defect to the other side. In November, a North Korean soldier defected to the South in Panmunjom, fleeing through a hail of gunfire by fellow North Korean soldiers.
Day and night, songs eulogizing the North’s “fatherly” leader and communist propaganda lamenting “depraved capitalist” lifestyles have drifted across the border to the South.
For their part, South Korean loudspeakers denounced hunger and human rights violations in the North, highlighting the number of cars and other signs of affluence in the South. Lately, it added K-pop music to the mix. South Korea hoped that its propaganda barrage would undermine the personality cult surrounding the ruling Kim family in the North.
In 2015, Mr. Kim ordered his front-line military units to go on a “semi-war state” after the two Koreas exchanged rocket and artillery fire. He ordered his front-line units to prepare to attack South Korean loudspeakers along the border unless they stopped blaring propaganda.
Some of the activists complained that the police tried to stop their balloon campaign as South Korea cultivated its rapprochement with the North.
In the past, the South Korean authorities have tried to discourage the balloon campaign when relations with Pyongyang have improved or the North has threatened to fire across the border to shoot down the balloons.