Seoul Resumes Propaganda War Against North Korea

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South Korea says it will exercise its right to self defense in case of further aggression by North Korea. The South accuses North Korea of torpedoing one of its navy ships in March. The South has launched a psychological campaign against Pyongyang showing North Koreans how much better life is in the South.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm David Greene in for Steve Inskeep.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a high-powered U.S. delegation in talks with China and this comes against a backdrop of tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The South accuses North Korea of torpedoing one of its Navy ships in March. South Korea says it will exercise its right to self defense in case of further aggression by North Korea.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn joins us from Beijing to discuss these developments.

Good morning, Anthony.

ANTHONY KUHN: Good morning, David.

GREENE: So South Korea began taking some measures to punish the North for this ship incident - the torpedoed ship - including psychological warfare. Tell us a little bit about that.

KUHN: Yes. This is something that had been discontinued many years ago in an effort to warm ties over with North Korea, but now theyve restarted it. They're doing propaganda broadcasts across the border. They're dropping leaflets. They're using electronic billboards to show the North Koreans how good life is in the South and what they're missing, and they're trying to entice North Korean soldiers to defect to the South. And this is something that the North Koreans have complained about before. It makes them very angry, and this time they have said they will shoot at any propaganda being beamed over the border.

GREENE: So it might seem like just message warfare but the North is actually saying theyll shoot back with actual firepower.

KUHN: Yes. That's right. It hasnt happened yet, but South Koreas Yonhap News Agency reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il actually put his country's military on alert. Its not clear from the report whether that was today or before, but certainly this has worried investors in the Koreas, and the South Korean stock market is down. The South Korean currency, the won, is down against the dollar, and theres a debate going on, I think, among analysts whether this was a tactical move by South Korea or a strategic move that could be followed by more moves and more escalation later.

GREENE: And as this psychological warfare, as you say, starts ramping up from the South, I know investors and everyone is wondering the likelihood of possible military clashes. I mean is that likelihood increasing, would you say, at this point?

KUHN: Well, the two sides could be mutually annihilated by an attack. As many people know, the two sides are in close proximity, separated only by the so-called demilitarized zone, so its hard to see how, you know, a war would be in anyones interest. Then again, that DMZ is, you know, a fairly tense part of the world and the two militaries have a lot of hardware and personnel arrayed against each other there, so its always, you know, in a state of readiness and tension.

GREENE: And Anthony, with Secretary Clinton having these talks with China, some tough thorny economic issues always on the agenda between the U.S. and China. Any progress?

KUHN: Well, there's been no movement in one key area, which is the value of the Chinese currency, which some people argue gives Chinese exports an unfair advantage. Chinas President Hu Jintao repeated the line that China will move on this but at their own pace. On the trade imbalance, China continues to say that if the U.S. wants to sell more things to China, theyve got to lift a long-standing ban on high tech exports. U.S.s Commerce Department says its working on that. The U.S. concern is about foreign technologies being shut out of Chinas market.

For example, iPhones sold in China can't have Wi-Fi because China has its own standard for that, and U.S. companies are worried that theyll be shut out of the market if they dont adopt these Chinese technologies.

GREENE: All right. Thats NPR's Anthony Kuhn joining us from Beijing.

Thanks, Anthony.

KUHN: Thank you, David.

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