Loudspeaker propaganda warIn December 1989, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega took sanctuary in the Holy See’s embassy in Panama from U.S. forces. Since the U.S. soldiers could not enter the embassy, Operation Nifty Package was conducted, playing deafening music from loudspeakers right next to the building. The psychological warfare demoralized and stressed the dictator, making him surrender in 10 days. The world witnessed the power of loudspeakers.
In 1925, loudspeakers were invented in the United States. They were first used in a war during World War II. The sound could reach 300 meters (984 feet) at the time, and they were used to encourage enemies or residents to surrender or evacuate before striking.
When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the United States sent members of the Loudspeaker and Leaflet Company of the Far East Command to the Korean Peninsula immediately. All they brought were four loudspeakers. Two were carried on military trucks and two on airplanes, urging North Korean and Chinese soldiers to surrender.
Loudspeakers have played major roles since the Gulf War in 1990. High-performance loudspeakers that can reach over 20 kilometers were used this time. U.S. forces used the speakers to urge Iraqi soldiers to surrender and captured many prisoners of war. Moreover, when making a push, speakers were used to play the sounds of tanks, trucks and fighter jets. So the enemies mistakenly believed that far bigger forces were storming in.
While the methods of using loudspeakers are evolving, the basics of psychological warfare remain the same. The contents of the broadcasts as well as the capacity of the loudspeakers determine the success of this tactic. So it is important to think about it from the other side.
During the Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush compared Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. But to the Iraqis, genocide of Jews was not seen as such a heinous crime, and comparing Hussein to Hitler didn’t have much effect.
It is not very effective to insult the enemy, either. When you hear an insult, you immediately get upset. Before German reunification, West Germany ended the practice of diminishing East Germany.
South Korea’s loudspeaker campaign toward North Korea has put the peninsula in a difficult situation. The North’s reaction proves the effectiveness of loudspeakers. However, we need to reconsider whether it was the best option since it resulted in a crisis. North Korea has a clear target at which to aim their rocket launchers. But there are other means of spreading the truth of the outside world that cannot be blocked or attacked, such as Korean dramas or chocolate snacks. The best strategy may be an attack that can be foreseen, yet cannot be foiled.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoogAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 24, Page 31
by NAM JEONG-HO