High-decibel loudspeakers from South Korea on the border with the long-time enemy North Korea have sometimes flown messages intended to inform, shake or make fun of the people on the other side.
The nation's last announcement announces that one of the communists North Korean soldiers deserted two weeks ago in a daring afternoon escape in the most sensitive and closely guarded section of the 150-mile border that separates two countries
The messages proclaim that the soldier – who was shot four times as he crossed a line of military demarcation and was treated in a hospital near Seoul; He is expected to recover from his injuries, according to South Korean military officials. The sound clips also say that the soldier suffered a malnutrition that endangers life.
Officers said that while treating their gunshot wounds, doctors discovered that the 24-year-old soldier was suffering from tuberculosis, hepatitis B and parasites. After several days in intensive care, the soldier – whose last name is Oh – was to be transferred to a general recovery room.
The poor health of Word of Oh could be an especially demoralizing message for North Korea's frontline troops and other close speakers. In the recent past, the speakers of the democratic nation have mainly transmitted lighter content, such as South Korean pop music.
"It's a relatively smart move from whoever is programming the speaker's content, to incorporate that," said Nat Kretchun, deputy director of the Open Technology Fund, a group supported by the US government that supports free expression. "Certainly, that is a message that the troops deployed forward in [Demilitarized Zone] will know is true and also one that will probably come home."
Korea was divided when Japan's control over the country ceased at the end of World War II in 1945. Messages through speakers began years after the 1953 armistice between the two nations that halted the Korean War. three years.
The two countries still share a common alphabet and a largely similar, though western-spoken language – the words influenced now impregnate the vocabulary of South Korea.
The government of South Korea does not usually discuss the location of the speakers and the content of their messages. But messages are heard near Paju, a border town north of Seoul open to tourists and across the border from North Korean artillery sites.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that a message said, in part: "We have learned about the nutritional conditions of the soldier who defected through the JSA" or Joint Security Area. The broadcast also noticed accounts of other malnourished North Korean soldiers.
South Korea's defense minister, Song Young-moo, visited on Monday the defection site at the JSA, a United Nations command post where US and South Korean soldiers are stationed a few meters from its North Korean counterparts.
The location, sometimes known as Panmunjom for the nearby agricultural village, has been the site of inter-Korean talks and visits by tourists and dignitaries. It is also known for its blue roof huts and their problems over the years.
If decibel messages about Oh's ordeal will have any practical effect on North Korea, it remains an open question.
Other messages have provoked angry responses from the communist nation, which greatly restricts the access of its 25 million residents to external information.
Some North Koreans have access to state media, which often minimize troubling events and highlight what the government considers successes, such as its recent underground nuclear detonations and long-range ballistic missile tests.
Such events, called "provocations" by the international community, violate United Nations resolutions and have led to widespread economic sanctions directed against North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, grandson of the country's patriarch.
Evidence in recent years has also increased tensions between the United States, which has 28,500 troops in southern Kor ea, a key ally in the region, and the north. The mocking and derogatory statements between Kim and President Trump in recent months have threatened to bring the two nations to the brink of war.
The loudspeakers have been switched on and off over the years following inter-Korean agreements, but they started again after an 11-year break in 2015 after a landmine incident that mutilated two South Korean soldiers. After a few weeks, South Korea agreed to disconnect them, but resumed the program again after the September 2016 nuclear test.
As of Monday night, North Korea had not yet responded.
On other occasions, the country's leadership threatened to bomb the loudspeaker installations. The speakers have not been attacked, but the reactions have been rhetorical, said Melissa Hanham, an badociate researcher with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in California who studies North Korea's weapons programs.
"He definitely gets a strong reaction, which makes me think that it has an effect on morale," Hanham said.
Stiles is a special correspondent.