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S. Korea reconsiders installing electronic signboards against N. Korea

All Headlines 19:53 June 13, 2010

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's military said Sunday it will reconsider its plan to install costly anti-North Korean propaganda electronic signboards along the border but go ahead with plans to resume anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts.

Angered by the unprovoked North Korean torpedo attack in March that sank one of its warships with the lives of 46 sailors, South Korea has decided to resume psychological warfare against its communist neighbor after a six-year hiatus.

The South Korean measures include loudspeaker broadcasts and a display of electronic propaganda signboards along the border that extends the width of the Korean Peninsula. Both sides agreed to halt propaganda campaigns against each other in 2004 when they were pushing reconciliation.

South Korea has recently installed batteries of loudspeakers at 11 points along the border in preparation for formal propaganda broadcasts but has decided to reconsider its plan to set up as many electronic signboards there, defense ministry sources said, citing high costs involved.

"We are reconsidering installing anti-North electronic signboards," said one ministry source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It costs between 1.3 billion won (US$1 million) and 1.5 billion won in setting up one electronic signboard."

The South Korean move comes as North Korea vows to retaliate in kind if South Korea resumes psychological warfare against it and even turn Seoul, the South Korean capital, into "a sea of flame."

South Korea's propaganda campaign against North Korea has so far been limited to FM radio.

In testimony to the National Assembly on Friday, South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said anti-Pyongyang loudspeaker broadcasts across the border will re-start after the U.N. Security Council takes action on North Korea in connection with the ship sinking.

The U.N. body is expected to begin formal debate on the issue this week, according to South Koran foreign ministry officials on Sunday.

Another defense ministry official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sunday that South Korea is mindful that full-scale psychological warfare against North Korea may escalate the already high tensions on the Korean Peninsula beyond control.

"The North's side views the psychological warfare operations as the most sensitive anti-North measure because it could deteriorate the morale of North Korean troops on the border," the official said.

The two Koreas, divided since 1945, are still technically at war, having signed no peace treaty at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea under a mutual defense treaty.

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