Updated May.12,2004 21:00 KST

NK Defector Internet Radio Station to Suspend Broadcasting
"Free NK (www.freenk.net)," an Internet radio station created by North Korean defectors, is confronted with the threat of suspension only 22 days after it began.

"Free NK" has aired daily for an hour, starting at 8 p.m., since the beginning of its service on April 20. 3,000 people have joined as members and 10,000 people log-in everyday.

"Free NK" has drawn attention as an anti-Kim Jung-il radio service. Former North Korean Workers Party secretary Hwang Jang-yeop harshly criticized North Korea in a broadcast right after the massive explosion in the North Korean city of Ryongchon on April 22.
As the Internet radio station ¡®Free NK¡¯ is on the verge of being closed down, Northern-born announcer Jeong Ju-hwa looks distressed.

The suspension of broadcasts can be attributed to a discontinued lease of the station office. Kim Chang-soon, the director of the Institute of North Korea Studies and the owner of the building, notified the radio station head Kim Seong-min on May 8 that he was suspending the lease. "Free NK" has part of the 6th floor of the institute building in Jangan-dong, Seoul, on a six-month contract, free of charge.

According to Kim Seong-min, Kim Chang-soon said he cannot rent the office to the station any more due to continuous threatening phone calls. The building owner asked the radio station to move out by the end of this month.

In fact, the Institute of North Korea Studies has been suffering from threats and protests since "Free NK" moved in. A guard at the building said strange people come to the institute to protest everyday.

Institute employees also said young men visit the institute several everyday and protest, ¡°Why did you rent the office to ¡®Free NK ?¡± Whenever protests occur, guards have to drive the people from the building, so the atmosphere there has become very chaotic, they said.

Threatening calls and e-mails have poured in to North Korean defectors who participate in the radio service. The station chief Kim Seong-min has been harassed by threatening phone calls made by an unidentified woman who says, ¡°You traitor, you¡¯d better be careful,¡± and, ¡°I won't let you get away with this.¡±

The Institute of North Korea Studies was founded as an affiliate agency of the National Intelligence Service in 1971. It was privatized in 1993, when former President Kim Young-sam was in office.

The North Korean defectors of "Free NK" are disappointed with the news. Choi Seong-il, an announcer, said he is disappointed because the atmosphere in society is getting strange and the institute is excessively sensitive to it.

(Kang Chol-hwan, nkch@chsoun.com )

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