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Ahead of talks, South Korea stops blaring propaganda over the border into North Korea

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South Korean soldiers stand guard on Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom between South and North Korea in the Demilitarized Zone in Panmunjom, South Korea. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet for the first time on Friday in the Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjom. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

For years, the South Korean military has blared propaganda across the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea, trying to demoralize North Korean troops and convince them to defect. Now the loudspeakers have gone silent.

What's the story?

South Korea’s Defense Ministry announced that the speakers had been shut off early Monday morning in anticipation of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un this Friday. The leaders of the two vastly different Koreas will meet at Panmunjom, a so-called “truce village” inside the DMZ. The South Korean government has not said whether the speakers will be turned back on after the summit.

The meeting will take place as Kim has expressed that he is open to the possibility of denuclearization, a huge step in what has otherwise been an escalating and tense situation on the Korean peninsula.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said that turning off the speakers would “ease military tensions and create a peaceful mood for the meeting.”

The Ministry also said, “We hope that our move today will result in South and North Korea ending mutual slandering and propaganda against each other and creating a peaceful new beginning.”

North Korea is still blaring propaganda from its speakers across the border, but South Korean officials expect these to be turned off soon as well.

The South Korean loudspeakers had blasted messages condemning human rights violations and telling North Koreans about the higher standard of living in the South.

When was the last time the loudspeakers were turned off?

This is not the first time that South Korea has turned its loudspeakers off. In 2004, they were turned off following a deal between the two governments, only to be turned back on in 2015 after South Korean soldiers were injured by land mines that North Korea’s military planted in the DMZ. The speakers were turned back off the same year and then back on again in 2016.

But turning off the loudspeakers won’t stop all South Korean messages from reaching the North. Activists still plan to continue sending balloons over the border, carrying “dollar bills, transistor radios, CDs containing Western movies and leaflets that call Mr. Kim a pig,” according to a report by the New York Times.

This balloon campaign is run by citizens and not endorsed by the South Korean government, which has even tried to discourage it in the past.

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