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For border areas, rapprochement means peace and quiet

Apr 30,2018
All is silent around the Imjin River wetlands in Yeoncheon County in Paju, Gyeonggi, near the border with North Korea. The loudspeakers that usually blast propaganda blaring at the military demarcation line (MDL) were turned off - on both sides.

A JoongAng Ilbo reporter took the path leading to Typhoon Observatory, around one kilometer away from the MDL separating the two Koreas, which is usually off-limits to civilians, at around 11 a.m. on Tuesday. The only sounds were those of nature.

South Korea turned off its front-line loudspeakers, which blare propaganda criticizing North Korea’s leader along with K-pop songs, last Monday at midnight to create a conciliatory mood ahead of a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Friday.

The speakers, a means of psychological warfare, had been running continuously since January 2016 after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test.

Last Tuesday morning, only the sound of the wind blowing, birds chirping and the trickle of the Imjin River could be heard.

“Early yesterday, the loudspeakers toward North Korea were silenced, and from the afternoon, the speakers that North Korea blasted all day long toward the South also came to a halt,” said Lee Gwang-il, 64, a manager of the Peace Wetland Park along the Imjin River. “Usually in the nighttime, the North Korean propaganda was turned on toward the South, but we had a quiet night for the first time in a long time.”

The South Korean military turned off some 40 loudspeakers at the border Monday.

Lee Seok-woo, head of a Yeoncheon environmental protection group, has conducted on-site inspections of the area around the loudspeakers and analyzed the level of sound with a noise measuring apparatus. “When the loudspeakers were on, my equipment measured between 30 to 50 decibels,” he said. “We have regained complete tranquility in the civilian control line area. When I see that our side has switched off the broadcasts toward the North, and at the same time North Korea has turned off its loudspeakers facing the South, it seems that finally we are seeing indications of a settling of peace in the border area, and I welcome it.”

The residents of Hoengsan-ri in Yeongcheong County, near the civilian control line, who have been plagued by the relentless propaganda broadcasts on both sides of the border, also welcomed the quiet.

“We had a hard time because the broadcasts from the North could be heard louder than the South Korean broadcasts to the North,” said Lee Jeong-yeol, a 65-year-old resident of the town, “but from last night, we didn’t hear any sound at all, and it was almost unbelievable!”

In Dongpa-ri, Jindong-myeon, Jo Bong-yeong, a 63-year-old head of the town’s agricultural committee, said, “It was difficult hearing the buzz of the North Korean broadcasts all day long, so I’m really glad. With the halt of the propaganda broadcasts on both sides, I hope true peace can be permanently established.”

BY JEON IK-JIN, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]