Saturday, December 17, 2011

Website Offers Rare Glimpse of North Korean TV

Courtesy of AFP
By Nam You-Sun

From his office in Seoul, former 
North Korean soldier Lim Young-Sun runs a website offering a rare glimpse of state television in theNorth to show what the country he fled two decades ago is really like.
Lim's Unification Broadcasting (SPTV) streams Korean Central Television, a risky business in Seoul where disseminating North Korean propaganda could see him fall foul of South Korea's tough National Security Law.
While the site (, the only one of its kind in the South, so far has an audience just in the thousands, Lim has a dream of attracting millions of viewers curious about life on the other side of the last Cold War frontier.
"I started live streaming three years ago mainly to let people here witness what North Korea is really like," Lim, 47, told AFP.
North Korean television is relayed by satellite to most of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. But its terrestrial signal south of the tense border is jammed by Seoul.
While some South Koreans have been arrested for posting North Korean news, SPTV appears to be tolerated, though under close surveillance by the security authorities.
"It's not like we've been approved by the government, but they simply turn a blind eye to us in order to create a favorable atmosphere for unification," he said.
South Korean government officials admit the authorities appear to be tolerating Lim's business.
"It's matter of judgement by security authorities, but SPTV is alive so far," said a spokesman at the unification ministry which handles cross-border affairs.
Lim, a former North Korean army first lieutenant, said he fled to China after being involved in anti-government activities in the North and arrived in South Korea in 1993.
"When the two Koreas are unified, the South will have to embrace the North and to do that, people here must be familiar with the culture and lifestyle of North Koreans," he said.
SPTV streams North Korean television for seven hours a day from 0800 GMT and edited footage is also posted online the next day.
The content is largely propaganda eulogising North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il or extolling his leadership and reports of military affairs in the secretive communist state.
News and other programmes are heavy with detailed accounts of Kim's field trips to various factories, farms and military units, stinging commentary attacking Seoul and Washington, or praising the virtue of hard work and blind allegiance and patriotism.
Though little publicised, daily viewership of SPTV's live streaming service and other content on its website can reach up to 15,000, sometimes jamming its relatively small-capacity server, Lim said.
The audience for SPTV seems to be mainly defectors and researchers on North Korean studies, and sometimes South Korean college students.
"At first, the government was worried that some South Korean supporters of the Kim Jong-Il regime would abuse my service, but ironically, many of them become anti-Kim after watching," Lim said.
"They said the scenes of North Korean residents so frantically worshipping Kim seemed ridiculous, to the point it became impossible to agree with the ideology."
Lim relies on small monthly donations of between 1,000 and 10,000 won (90 cents to $9) from a few hundred supporters to help fund his shoestring operation.
"Now, I only have individual sponsors, so I fund the service with the money I earn by lecturing and running my clothing firm," Lim said.
He said he was busy and tired but vowed to continue his service until the peninsula split at the end of World War II is re-unified.
"I'll try harder to increase the number of receivers to four million and to provide more interesting and meaningful content."
The SPTV website has drawn a mixed response.
"How can this site relay broadcasting by commies so dauntlessly? I will report to security authorities," one visitor nicknamed "Viewer" said in a comment posted on the website.
"I don't agree with the philosophy of your company, but I'm visiting here just because I'm interested in North Korea's broadcasts," another visitor going by the name "Clean Dong" wrote.

Original Story Here.

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