Go to contents

[Opinion] Radio Free Europe (RFE)

Posted June. 30, 2004 22:22,   


“It is hard to say how much you devoted to the collapse of the totalitarian Soviet Union.” This was the massage that former Russian President Boris Yeltsin sent in May 2001 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Radio Free Europe (RFE)’s foundation. RFE was an international radio service to the former Soviet Union and former socialist states in Eastern Europe during the cold war era, funded by the National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE) in America,

The former Soviet regime naturally asked for the stopping of RFE’s broadcasts, claiming that the radio service was speaking ill of its regime. However, for those who lived under the oppression of the “Iron Curtain” the radio broadcasting was like a godsend. Mr. Yeltsin recalled, “Thanks to RFE, we could keep up with current events that had taken placed in and around Russia.” During the post cold war era, RFE has never stopped its broadcasting over the radio. In 1995, RFE transferred its headquarters from Munich in Germany to Prague in the Czech Republic at the request of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who had led dissident movements during the cold war era with the help of RFE. RFE now monitors countries in Eastern Europe and Russia in an effort to bolster democratic development in the region.

On the other hand, the Korean internet broadcasting station, Free North Korea Network (www.freenk.net) founded last April, is now under both visible and invisible pressure. Since its foundation, the network has had to move its recording studio for the second time in the wake of a protest made by North Korea. Some civic organizations joined the North in protests to stop broadcasting on the site, accusing it of deteriorating the current reconciliatory mood between the two nations. However, RFE had never stopped sending its signal during former Russian premier Gorbachev’s “Perestroika (reform) and Glasnost (opening)” era, which promoted reconciliation with the West.

Former Soviet Foreign Minister and former Georgian President Shevardnadze praised RFE instead of criticizing it back then. “In Eastern Europe, totalitarian ideology still remains. Therefore, RFE should keep monitoring democratic development in the region,” he said, supporting the keeping of the radio station after the cold war era. I wish that Free North Korea Network would become a voice of freedom like RFE and keep sending its signal from Pyeongyang as its new headquarters after reunification. I expect the day will come when those in North Korea who have kept silence appreciate and are thankful for the service of the internet-based network.

Kim Ki-hyeon, Correspondent to Moscow, kimkihy@donga.com