Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PSYOP and North Korea? Are you talking to me?

I’ve been to the Republic of Korea (ROK) several times. Most of those visits were military ones. We used to say that the ROK and Allied forces there don’t ever have to worry about military exercises because they always have a fully funded Opfor (opposing force).

During one of my visits I learned that the ROK always referred to North Korea with a “k” so that it was abbreviated nK. I kind of liked that. During another of my military visits I took the bus tour into the DMZ. All tour participants from Yong San are given very strict instructions on what to wear, how to act, when to take photos, etc. The highlight of the tour is visiting the Panmunjom negotiating hut which straddles the DMZ. Tourists and I was no exception, like having their picture taken in North Korea.

The ROK government and especially the military have a profound appreciation for PSYOP and its cousin propaganda. False front stage like villages, balloons, cross border loud speaker broadcasts and thousands of leaflets all add to the mix. So there is no shortage of PSYOP expertise on either side.

North Korea kind of makes Cuba look like Disneyland by comparison. While you could argue that both are sort of closely held family businesses, Kim Jong Il sets the world standard for unpredictable and reclusive national leaders. The swirl of rumors and truths around his proclivities whether wives or brandy makes my head spin.

The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island earlier in November 2010 is the latest in string of incidents to include the sinking of an ROK Naval vessel and the famous tree incident of 18 August 1976. Every once in a while the nK government must just feel the need to do something to get the world’s attention.

Since nK is one of the most closed societies in the world and since the nK leadership is cloistered and secretive – what sort of influence operations (PSYOP) would make any sense at all?

This requires a bit of analysis and a lot of imagination. Strikes me that the nK leadership uses cell phones and computers while the overwhelming majority of the population doesn’t have access to either.

If it were me, I don’t think I would spend a lot of money or effort on generic or broad based efforts. Rather I would employ some CNE and some CNA with perhaps a touch of fax based messaging. The overarching effort would be designed to heighten paranoia within the leadership and to stimulate conflict a couple of levels down from the senior leadership – perhaps shaking the pyramid from the top.

I college friend of mine once told me it’s very difficult to give someone a hard time if they just don’t give a shit and it’s my believe that the “Dear Leader” doesn’t give a shit about world opinion.

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