27 May 2004


Internet radio station threatened, staff receive death threats

Incident details

Kim Seong-min

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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed concern over recent death threats and harassment of a group of North Korean defectors who run the independent Internet-based radio station Free North Korea.

On 8 May 2004, the Institute of North Korean Studies, which is linked to South Korean intelligence, asked the radio station's employees to leave the premises they were using. The decision followed a complaint from Pyongyang and death threats against station employees.

RSF urged South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun to intervene with the relevant authorities to ensure free expression for the radio station and the staff's safety. The organisation said it was disturbed to see that the station's staff would be forced to leave the building that houses the station, just three days after an official North Korean complaint.

Free North Korea http://www.freenk.net),the first independent radio station run by North Korean exiles, has received threats ever since its launch on 20 April. Individuals believed to be linked to South Korea's far left, who back the North Korean regime, have regularly tried to disrupt programmes by entering the building that houses the station. Security personnel have had to intervene on several occasions.

The radio station's presenters have also received death threats by phone, e-mail and post. An unidentified woman has warned them several times, saying, "Traitors, you should watch out."

On 5 May, a North Korean delegation made an official complaint about the launch of the website and radio station. The unification minister reportedly replied that it was only one website among the tens of thousands in South Korea.

On 8 May, Institute of North Korean Studies Director Kim Chang-soon asked Free North Korea radio station director Kim Seong-min to leave the offices that had been loaned to the station as soon as possible. He said the decision had been taken to protect the institute's staff. The Institute of North Korean Studies was privatised in the 1990s but continues to receive support from the South Korean secret services (NIS). According to some sources, the institute's director acted under pressure from the authorities.

On 19 May, Free North Korea staff left the offices and moved into a privately-rented office. Broadcasts have not been interrupted as a result of the harassment and threats.

Kim Seong-min, a former official North Korean poet, launched the Internet radio station with about half a dozen other North Korean defectors living in Seoul. Using a "North Korean style", the station's programming includes one hour of news about the situation in the peninsula and accounts by exiles. It strongly denounces Pyongyang's Stalinist regime. The website claims 10,000 hits per day.


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