News / Asia

S. Korea to Launch Entertainment Satellite TV to the North

A private South Korean group says it intends, as soon as next year, to beam satellite entertainment television programs into the isolated North.

North Koreans are allowed to watch only the government’s television channels, which mainly broadcast news, movies and documentaries predictability exhorting the successes of the country’s communist leadership.

But a group of South Koreans wants to give those on the northern side of the divided peninsula some lighter fare, hoping that will help unify, at least culturally, the two Koreas.

Unification TV is to be composed primarily of South Korean dramas and other entertainment programs.

The chairman of Korean Peninsula Vision and Unification, Bong Doo-wan, says the timing is right to launch this project.

Bong says inter-Korean relations have been frozen for 60 years and Korea remains the only nation on Earth divided into two countries. He says the South Korean public wants ethnic unification to proceed while the actual political unification is put aside. And, Bong says,  the most effective way to meet this challenge is through the media, with broadcasting being the quickest medium to achieve this.

The founders of the channel plan to raise $46 million from private backers and the government for the launch. But there is no indication yet that South Korea’s government intends to contribute funds.

The station’s founders say the programming they will air should be neutral and inoffensive to the leaders in Pyongyang or Seoul.

Skeptical analysts note it would be nearly impossible for impoverished and repressed North Koreans to acquire and install the roof-top satellite dishes and receivers needed to view the TV signal from space.

North Korea forbids reception of foreign media, although defectors say listening to Korean language radio broadcasts beamed to the country, including those from VOA and Radio Free Asia (both funded by the U.S. government), have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Authorities in Pyongyang have also battled, with little apparent success, a surge of pirated DVD and CD’s from China, the majority containing popular South Korean movies, TV programs and music.

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