Tuesday, May 1, 2018, marked an important day in the history of the Korean peninsula. On this day, South Korea began to take down the loudspeakers they had set up along the 154-mile-long border shared with North Korea. Both nations had already turned off their loudspeakers prior to the significant summit, which resulted in a positive turn of events in the area.
On Friday April 27, 2018, the two countries held a summit specifically between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean head Kim Jong Un. It was decided, during the summit, that the two nations will put an end to their hostile relations. Each of them will also establish a liaison office to help facilitate integration and co-operation, as well as both nations agreeing to reunite separated families at the border. According to the respective leaders’ joint statement: “South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all the hostile acts against each other in every domain… no more war on the Korean Peninsula.”
The use of loudspeakers
Loudspeakers had been installed by both countries and have been largely used to broadcast high volume propaganda against each other. They have been up for decades. The North Korean loudspeakers broadcast the “evils” of the South Korean government, as well as the benefits of the North Korean socialist regime. The South Korean loudspeakers, on the other hand, blasted K-pop along with speeches and audio documentaries on the importance and benefits of democracy. The South Korean loudspeakers also broadcast world news, weather forecasts, and news on the poor conditions of the citizens of North Korea. Some private organizations even sent over pamphlets attached to balloons with information on the wrongdoings of the North Korean regime with the hope that the North Korean army would decide to rebel against Kim Jong-un.
While K-pop is famous in South Korea, it has been banned in North Korea and playing K-pop was generally used to mock Kim’s order to disallow all access of North Koreans to any kind of entertainment created outside of North Korea. The loudspeakers worked as a weapon of psychological warfare for both nations as they ran non-stop at high volumes with very few breaks, if any.
In response to South Korea removing the loudspeakers, North Korea has decided to realign its time zone with Seoul. In 2015, North Korea had moved its clocks back by half an hour compared to the time in South Korea as a move to defy the Japanese colonial rule and its remains. North Korea has also begun to remove the speakers installed by them at the border. According to Choi Hyn-soo, a spokeswoman from South Korea National Defense Ministry, this step was taken by both the nations as a “rudimentary” action to build trust between the two countries. Although a small step, its significance cannot be denied when you look at the long history of hostilities between the two. It is, in fact, a practical step toward reconciliation.
The two nations are now working toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. However, North Korea continues to propose denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as a whole and not simply the denuclearization of North Korea. This implies that North Korea will only disarm its nuclear arsenal if and when the U.S. military withdraws from South Korea and also puts an end to its nuclear umbrella security over South Korea.