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South Korea Turns Off K-Pop Loudspeakers at Border With North

YEONCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - JANUARY 08: (SOUTH KOREA OUT) South Korean soldiers drow down a cover from the loudspeakers at a military base near the border between South Korea and North Korea on January 8, 2016 in Yeoncheon, South Korea. South Korea announced on January 7, 2016 that it would resume the broadcasts from the loudspeakers placed along the border, criticizing the North in response to its nuclear test. In August 2015, when the South Korean soldiers were maimed by land mines in DMZ, South Korea started the loudspeaker broadcasts and the North threatened to attack the speakers. (Photo by Korea Pool-Donga Daily via Getty Images)

Ahead of Friday’s scheduled summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, both sides are publicizing their respective gestures of goodwill. From the North Koreans, that means freezing the country’s nuclear weapon program, a pledge you’d be justified in taking with some salt. On the South Korean side, it means shutting down the K-pop, at least temporarily: On Monday, the New York Times reports, South Korean authorities turned off the high-powered loudspeakers that regularly blast news, propaganda, and Korean pop music over the heavily fortified demilitarized zone between the two states.

The speakers have been turned on and off over the years, but were most recently reactivated in September 2016 in response to North Korean bomb tests. (North Korea has loudspeakers along the DMZ too, albeit less powerful ones.) K-pop isn’t the impetus for Korea’s recent diplomatic thaw, of course, but as explained in an informative overview at The Outline today, it has become an important component of the South’s long-running governmental propaganda campaign to the North. The bright, bubbly music projects an image of consumerist fun and modern, internationally relevant South Korean culture—but it’s also largely apolitical and inoffensive, assuming you aren’t offended by ultra-catchy choruses.

Among the North Korean regime, the genre appears to be finding increasing acceptance: After attending a special outreach concert by multiple K-pop groups in Pyongyang last month, Kim was photographed with performers and state media reported he’d enjoyed it. Of course, until this week, soldiers stationed along the demilitarized zone didn’t really have a choice but to listen.