The British Broadcasting Service (BBC) has announced new funding and plans for a Korean language World Service program, the BBC announced on Wednesday.
The Korean language programming will be part of 11 new foreign language services in what the BBC is calling the biggest expansion of the World Service since the 1940’s, with £289 million to fund the project.
The BBC called it a “move designed to bring its independent journalism to millions more people around the world, including in places where media freedom is under threat.”
It will “broadcast short-wave and medium-wave radio programs aimed at audiences in the Korean peninsula, supplemented by digital content online and on social media,” it added.
The move means that North Koreans will be able to tune into BBC programming from within the country, despite the government’s attempts to restrict access to external media.
Ambassador Robert King, the U.S. Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights, said in 2015 that an estimated 30 percent of North Koreans are tuning into foreign radio broadcasts and that they are considered much more effective than more high profile attempts to breach the information blockade, such as sending balloons across the border.
North Koreans can tune into foreign broadcasts via radio sets purchased on the black market or government issued radios that have been tampered with to pick up non-government frequencies. North Koreans have also built their own radios to pick up external information in the past.
The European Alliance for Human Rights in North Korea (EAHRNK) has been a long advocate for a BBC World Service for Korea and praised the announcement on Wednesday.
“A BBC service for North Korea is not simply a radio station. It is a message of hope. We are heartened that the BBC and the United Kingdom Government are voicing opposition to the repression of the North Korean Government and actively breaking Pyongyang’s stranglehold over its people,” an EAHRNK newsletter read.
“A BBC World Service in the Korean-language will soon begin to undermine one of the most violent and criminal regimes of the modern era.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea (APPGNK) in the United Kingdom also welcomed the announcement.
“For the people of North Korea, I am pleased that breaking their information blockade and upholding their given rights is to become a central pillar of UK foreign policy and BBC practice,” Lord Alton, co-chair of the APPG, wrote in a newsletter on Wednesday. “From the Soviet Union to Burma, the BBC has shown that broadcasting can inspire and broaden the horizons of the repressed.”
Featured Image: Eric Lafforgue
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