Sixteenth edition of the N&O column / Spooks newsletter

(Date: Tue, 03 Aug 1999 20:50:38 GMT)

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Numbers stations on the Korean peninsula

written by Mr. Toru Yamashita and translated by Mr. Hideharu Torii. Toru Yamashita is president of the Asian Broadcasting Institute and presenter of Radio Japan's "DX Corner" in Korean.

North Korean numbers stations

Numbers stations operated by North Korea have been monitored for decades. The activities of the stations have been reduced, compared with those in early 1980's.

The North Korean numbers stations in voice, which transmit five-digit figures, have currently three outlets. Of them, two are broadcast over Radio Pyongyang, a Korean-language service beamed to South Korea and Korean residents in Japan.

One opens with Red Flag Song on 621, 657, 684, 702, 720, 855, 3250 and 6400 kHz at 1500 (midnight Korea and Japan time). The Red Flag Song outlet broadcasts coded messages almost every day.

The other one starts with March of the Guerrilla Army on 729, 801, 1080, 3320 and 6250kHz also at 1500. The March of the Guerrilla Army outlet transmits numbers and correspondents for specific agents or collaborators on fixed dates. For example, messages for the No. 101 are sent on every 10th and 12th of January, March, July and September, while messages for the No. 3166 are transmitted on every 13th and 14th of March, June, September and December. The messages of the second day transmission is a rebroadcast.

After coded message broadcasts end, Radio Pyongyang returns to a unified program.

The last outlet is not affiliated with Radio Pyongyang's service but opens with the same interval signal with that of Radio Pyongyang's external service -- an arranged version of Song of General Kim Il Sung -- using 4770 and 5870 kHz. The station plays Cantata to Marshal Kim Il Sung after the interval signal. The station has been monitored irregularly at 0400, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1700 or 2200. When there are no messages, the station broadcasts readings of essays or music played by Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, Wangjaesan Light Music Troupe, Korean People's Army Concert Troupe, Mansudae Art Troupe and Pibada Opera Troupe. At 1230 on every 8th and 28th of March, June, September and December, the station plays music "requested by servicemen and workers."

At 2200 on December 31st, February 15th and April 14th and at 1200 on January 1st, February 16th and April 15th, only music is played without announcement. February 16th is the birthday of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il and April 15th is the birthday of the late North Korean President Kim Il Sung.

Format of North Korean Numbers Stations

After opening music, a woman announcer calls out the numbers of agents for whom messages will be sent and the starting time of the messages.

"During this broadcast, first a message for the No. 2883 will be sent, and then a message for the No. 692 will start from 1208, and a message for the No. 2185 will follow at 1214." A preamble is repeated twice. There is no such a preamble in the case of only one message and a woman announcer begins with like this: "A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. Count 21. Count 21. Text."

The voice then goes into the text of five-figure groups with a pause between the third and fourth digit like this: "374 79, 686 53, 468 80" After a message is finished, an announcement like this follows: "I'll repeat the message. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. Count 21. Count 21. Text." There is no pause between the third and fourth digit this time like this: "37479, 68653, 46880". A message ends with announcement of "That's all."

Suspected South Korean numbers stations

Numbers stations believed to be operated by South Korea was first noted in late 1970's. The purpose and the nature of the stations remain in a mystery. The stations appear sporadically on the hour or the half hour at night and early morning (Korea time) on 4500, 4600, 4940, 5450, 5715 or 6215 kHz. The stations start with a Korean song. Various songs have been used. At one case, Song of General Kim Il Sung was played. The names of recipients of messages is referred to such as the No. 008, and names of rivers and mountains in the Korean Peninsula. Texts are either four-figure or five-figure groups. The stations occasionally end after only playing music.

Format of South Korean Numbers Stations

The typical format of the stations is as follows: "The No. 3825, the No. 3825. Please receive a message. Count 64. Text." A woman announcer then goes into the text with a pause between the third and fourth in the case of five digits and between the second and third in the case of four digits.

The text is repeated again without pause between digits, saying "I'll repeat the message again." The broadcast ends with such an announcement like this: "That's all. Thank you."

See also Newsletter 18.

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