I’ve often heard what a powerful effect music can have on people, but this raises it to a whole new level.
I first read about this psychological warfare tactic back in August, when South Korea successfully used loudspeakers to blast messages critical of North Korea across the most heavily armed border in the world.
The messages were in response to the North firing missiles into the seas during military drills between the U.S. and South Korea, as well as planting land mines that maimed two South Korean soldiers.
A former North Korean propaganda official said the broadcasts are powerful tools because they threaten to undermine the system of leader worship. Another North Korean who was stationed at the border said at first that he believed that the broadcasts were all lies, but after two years he believed most of it. He later defected to South Korea.
The use of such methods is not new. Loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts from trucks and airplanes were used by the U.S. military during the Korean War as part of so-called psychological operations to encourage Communist soldiers to defect.
Following the war, North Korea set up speakers along its border in the 1960s to try to lure South Korean soldiers, and South Korea responded with its own banks of speakers.
North Korea expressed desperation for the speakers to be turned off from the early 2000s, and the speakers were switched off in 2004.
After the mine attack in August 2015, the military decided that the speakers were the most effective retaliation. During negotiations that followed, North Korean delegates repeatedly demanded that the speakers be turned off, citing concerns that the messages were agitating their soldiers at the border.
South Korea agreed to do so, but held out the possibility of using them again in the event of an “abnormal” situation.
Well such a situation just happened again. Last Wednesday, North Korea detonated a powerful explosive that it called a hydrogen bomb. By Friday, South Korea fired up its banks of high-wattage speakers along its border to broadcast criticism of Mr. Kim’s leadership and other subversive messages into the country. Also on the playlist were recent South Korean hit songs.
While the speakers can be heard up to a range of 15 miles, their primary target are the North Korean soldiers stationed at the border. Even though there may not be many people who hear the broadcasts, North Korea fears the spread of the messages by cellphone and word-of-mouth.
The broadcasts are meant to challenge North Korea’s efforts to keep an information blockade on its own people. In doing so, South Korea aims to unsettle the North Korean regime by raising questions among its people about the political system they are forced to live under.
This seems like a great way to settle disputes, of any kind.
Concerned about arming drones with weapons? Load them with music players and speakers, and have them fly over enemy territory playing the Barney song over and over. They’ll agree to your demands in no time.
Teenage son never wants to leave his room? Just start piping the Barney song into his room. He’ll be asking to play some board games with the family within 15 minutes.
Trying to avoid a hostile takeover? Set up a bank of speakers outside the aggressor’s corporate headquarters, and play the Barney song all day. They’ll be asking you to buy them out.
Who knew there was a point to Barney after all…