[FOUNTAIN]The mobile wave spillover

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[FOUNTAIN]The mobile wave spillover

Spillover refers to television and radio signals that reach locations beyond the intended coverage area, sometimes neighboring countries. The broadcasting term gained the political and social spotlight in the Cold War days, when Washington and Moscow started to beam programming into enemy territory.
While the Cold War has ended, spillover lives on. In the age of globalization, people can easily enjoy dozens of broadcasts from overseas in real time. But even today, countries are still very concerned about the impact of this phenomenon.
When a country does not share a religious or cultural background with a neighbor or has memories of historical discords, the government may be extra sensitive about the spillover effect. Foreign satellite television might spread false information to cause ethnic or religious disputes, and an uncensored inflow of commercial advertisements could harm domestic markets.
But today, there is something even more serious than spillover. The advance of information technology has popularized the Internet and mobile communications. In adjacent countries, people in the border regions can use the mobile numbers of the neighboring country without a roaming service. As a result, an increasing number of North Korean citizens along the northern border reportedly use Chinese mobile services. Chinese mobile phones are popular especially because the conversations and records cannot be censored by the North Korean authorities.
As South Koreans have seen, the distribution of mobile phones can change a culture and society. Uncensored conversations can be a serious threat to an autocratic regime and its leaders. The North Korean authorities have reportedly launched an extensive crackdown recently on illegal mobile phones in the Chinese border region.
If a country is confident in its system, the spillover phenomenon can be a promising business opportunity for companies to effortlessly open up a new market in a neighboring region. Countries might even enhance regional unity and mutual dependence.
But if a country wants to keep itself secluded from the world and fears changes, it will fail to avoid the mobile wave spillover, just as the television and radio signals in the Cold War era could not be prevented. The result would be an impediment to industrial development.

by Kim Seok-hwan

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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