North and South Korea Turn to Psychological Tactics


Tourists looking across the Demilitarized Zone to North Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

As fallout continues over South Korea blaming North Korea for sinking one of its navy ships in March, the two countries are planning to revisit some old tactics for getting their messages heard.

Last week, South Korea released the results of a multinational investigation that concluded a North Korean torpedo sank its navy vessel the Cheonan in disputed border waters of the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors. North Korea has refuted the findings of the report, saying they were based on fabricated evidence.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak delivered a televised address to the nation on Monday, saying South Korea will no longer tolerate the North’s “brutality.” “North Korea will pay a price corresponding to its provocative acts. I will continue to take stern measures to hold the North accountable.”

He announced trade restrictions with the North and said its cargo ships would no longer be able to pass through South Korean sea lanes.

In response, North Korea said it was cutting all relations with the South and letting no South Korean airliners or ships cross its air or sea borders.

“There is no need to show any mercy or patience for such confrontation maniacs, sycophants and traitors and wicked warmongers as the Lee Myung Bak group,” the North’s Korean Central News Agency quoted an unnamed spokesman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying.

The statement also said the North would counterattack the South’s “psychological warfare” against the North.

After a six-year lull, South Korea this week began setting up loudspeakers to project propaganda messages across the Demilitarized Zone — the strip of land across the Korean Peninsula that serves as a buffer between the two countries.

In addition, South Korea said it would drop leaflets with the findings of the report on the sinking of its ship to prove its case to citizens of the North.

Other tactics used over the years have included placing illuminated billboards facing each other with nationalistic messages and building modernized residential complexes in the demilitarized zone.

As tensions continued to flare, the North said Wednesday it was considering closing a road to an industrial complex it operates with the South in the Kaesong border city. But the Unification Ministry in Seoul said hundreds of South Korean managers and other workers from the South were still allowed to enter the factory, a lucrative source of revenue for the North.