North Korean Radio Anniversary

This article was originally aired over Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” program and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to the South Pacific DX Resource hosted on for a period of 5 years from December 1 2003. Author: Adrian Peterson

September 9, 1948

Well, actually, the date September 9 in the year 1948 is not really a date that is associated with radio broadcasting in North Korea. Instead, it is the date on which North Korea announced the formation of its own government. However, there is no known date for the commencement of radio broadcasting in the territory that is North Korea and at the time of partition, there were no known radio broadcasting stations on the air.

We could ask the question: In this land of more than 20 million people, when and where did radio broadcasting actually begin? This information was never made known internationally at the time and the exact details are still unknown to the international radio world even to this day. A google search on the internet does not seem to bring to light any significant information, and the listings in Ludo Maes “Transmitter Documentation Project” give very little concrete information.

The first reference that we have been able to locate for the introduction of radio broadcasting in North Korea is found in the Australian radio magazine, “Radio & Hobbies” dated for the month of March 1949. A report by the legendary Arthur Cushen in New Zealand, just six months after their declaration of independence, states that a radio station is on the air in the capital city, Pyongyang. This station was operating on shortwave under the callsign JWM and it was noted on two channels, 4400 & 7775 kHz.

The first listing for North Korean radio stations in the World Radio Handbook does not appear until eight years later, in the year 1957. In this listing four channels are given; on mediumwave 785 820 & 1075 kHz with 6250 kHz on shortwave. The hours of on-air operation were quite brief, just a half hour or an hour in duration.

Programming in that era was in Korean, with a Foreign Service in Japanese. There was also a daily 30 minute relay from Radio Moscow ‘s Far Eastern Service in Korean.

It is known that Radio Pyongyang in North Korea procured two of the transmitters at 250 kW from Schwarzenburg in Switzerland when Swiss Radio International closed that station. Ludo Maes gives the year for this event as 1995, and it is presumed that nowadays these units are indeed on the air in North Korea.

The current edition of the World Radio TV Handbook lists 17 mediumwave transmitters on the air in North Korea, mostly very high powered, ranging up to the massive power output of 1,500 kW. For domestic shortwave, 11 transmitters are listed at eight different locations.

On the international shortwave scene, these transmitters are shown as in current use:-
Kanggye (KUNG-JEE) 5 @ 200 kW
Kujang (KOO-JUNG) 5 @ 200
Pyonyang PEEYONG-YUNG) 10 @ 200

It is quite probable that a lot of villages throughout North Korea are still receiving radio programming by cable, through a loud speaker installed in the home.

Occasionally, QSLs from North Korea do make an appearance into the international radio world. In the AWR collection, we are holding a total of eight QSLs, seven on shortwave and one on mediumwave. A total of four of the regional shortwave locations have been verified.

So, to answer the original question, available evidence would suggest that the first radio station on the air in North Korea was a low powered shortwave unit located near the capital city, Pyonyang, and that was installed early in the year 1949, just a few months after their declaration of independence.

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