The Radio representative Kazuhiro Araki (left) is talking to the microphone while Tatsuru Murao (right), executive director of COMJAN and program producer, is calling for support
Amid increasing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, it is understood that the “Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea (COMJAN),” has finalized preparations for carrying out 24-hour live broadcasting in the event of an emergency.
COMJAN, which investigates the North Korean abduction issue. As the only private organization carrying out these types of emergency broadcasts, it purports to communicate the current situation in real-time to abduction victims held by North Korea, conveying security and evacuation measures.
It manages the Sea Breeze (Shio Kaze) radio program targeting North Korea, trying to reach government-recognized abductees and certain missing persons possibly abducted by North Korea, and broadcasting news related to North Korea.
Following the rapidly increasing tensions between the United States and North Korean, brought about by North Korean nuclear and missile developments since April, Sea Breeze has conveyed the North Korean missile situation and US military movements in emergency warning broadcasts, calling for the safety of victims to be ensured.
However, limited to late-night, three-and-a-half-hour-long broadcasts, it has been judged insufficient for emergencies. As a result of its cooperation with NHK, which holds the right of use for the transmission facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, and discussions with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications regarding the necessary national broadcasting licenses, preparations have been taken to carry out 24-hour live broadcasting.
Apart from maintenance-related transmission breaks, live broadcasting allows the continuous communication of the latest developments, evacuation zones, methods to ensure safety, and so forth, to abduction victims.
COMJAN began short-wave radio transmission of Sea Breeze in 2005. In 2016, it began AM Radio transmission, which is accessible to most people in North Korea. Programs are delivered in Japanese, Korean, English, and Chinese. Aside from providing emotional support to abduction victims, it has also conveyed the reality of the dictatorship of North Korea, in an attempt to destabilize the country’s strict news reporting system.
Recently, it has also broadcast news which rocked the international community, such as the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the stepbrother of Kim Jong-un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. North Korean authorities are paying careful attention to Sea Breeze, persistently transmitting jamming signals, and have even denied broadcast content in their own public broadcasts.
The supporters of radio gathered at the fundraising and recording event in Osaka on 19th August, 2017.
Against this background, there has been a dramatic decrease in the frequency and duration of jamming signal transmissions since 2016. While the reason is unclear, electrical power supply within North Korea is dwindling, and it has been supposed that they might be having difficulties maintaining a continuous signal.
Moreover, compared to the transmission facilities of Sea Breeze, the North Korean jamming transmission facilities are weak and becoming obsolete, making their jamming capabilities ineffectual against the robust signal of the program.
According to monitoring carried out by COMJAN near the border in South Korea, receiver sensitivity for the shortwave broadcast is superb, with North Korean defectors admitting that they “listened to it in North Korea.”
Although the positive result appears to be due to tenacity, as a volunteer-run organization surviving on donations, Sea Breeze deals with insurmountable financial difficulties.
Since necessary management costs for shortwave and AM radio broadcasting total 3.5 million yen per month, AM broadcasting was temporarily ceased after three months of transmission. After support from Japan’s largest industry-based union, the Japanese Federation of Textile, Chemical, Food, Commercial, Service and General Workers’ Unions (UA ZENSEN) and others, AM radio broadcasting began again in April 2017. However from October the outlook for continued broadcasting appears very difficult.
Tatsuru Murao, executive director of COMJAN and program producer, is calling for support, saying, “We hope to provide even more enriched content, with the aim of rescuing abductees and raising awareness of the abduction issue.”
Read Japan Forward’s special coverage of the abduction issue.
(Click here to read the original report in Japanese.)