By Kang Seung-woo
K-pop songs and weather forecasts broadcast from propaganda loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border can ultimately weaken the North Korean regime because they have a significant psychological impact on North Korean soldiers, according to a report Sunday.
Park Ju-hwa, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), said if North Korean soldiers are exposed to the propaganda broadcasts for a long time, they could develop cognitive dissonance, and eventually, have negative views of their leader and his regime.
The North has reacted sensitively to the non-violent cross-border campaigns that also include sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets, apparently concerned about them weakening its military discipline.
"According to a study, music accelerates the secretion of dopamine that can change people physiologically and psychologically as well as having to do with pleasure and addiction, meaning the musical effect is automatic and irresistible," Park stated in the report.
"Applying the results to the propaganda campaign, those who continuously listen to K-pop songs will have more dopamine and they are expected to get enjoyment from them."
He added that music instilled positive reactions will result in favorable responses toward the propaganda campaign and furthermore, South Korean society.
In retaliation for Pyongyang's landmine attack in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on Aug. 4, South Korea turned on giant speakers broadcasting propaganda messages across the border. Angered, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un put its military on a quasi-state of war footing, and threatened to attack the South. The tensions on the Korean Peninsula were defused after high-level inter-Korean talks reached an agreement on Aug. 25.
On the same principle, accurate weather forecasts from broadcasts can build up trust in the campaign among those stationed in military units near the border and the confidence can increase in their southern neighbor, according to the report.
"In the process, North Koreans will experience cognitive dissonance -- a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behavior," Park said.
"Faced with cognitive dissonance, people typically try to adjust their attitudes and beliefs to their behavior rather than changing their behavior."
As a result, the propaganda messages can prompt North Korean soldiers to switch their negative perceptions toward the South and positive ones toward their regime, Park added.
Park advises the military to take advantage of hook songs that bring about positive feelings and emotions rather than politically attacking the repressive state's irrationality and inconsistency.
However, Park also pointed to side effects of the propaganda campaigns.
"For example, should North Koreans living next to the border be angered by the messages, their hostility toward the South may increase," he said.
On Aug. 10, the South Korean military resumed the anti-North broadcasts for the first time in 11 years, running loudspeakers at 11 sites along the border. It also brought mobile speakers into use during the tense situation.
According to the military, the audio can travel some 10 kilometers into Gaeseong in the daytime and 24 kilometers at night.
"It proved that psychological warfare against North Korea such as anti-North flyers and propaganda loudspeakers can function as effective asymmetric weaponry, drawing a valuable lesson for South Korea's strategy in the future," said Cho Han-bum, a KINU senior research fellow.