THE NORTH KOREAN REACTION TO THE COLD WAR
OPERATION JILLI PROPAGANDA LEAFLETS

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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PSYOP Intelligence Notes

During the height of the Vietnam War the United States dropped millions of propaganda leaflets over the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong enemy. This was a “white” operation and above board. At the same time, a “black” operation was quietly taking place. Some of the aircraft taking off from the air bases in Okinawa headed straight for Vietnam; others secretly veered off and dropped their leaflets on North Korea. The reader can find a complete discussion of this operation in my JILLI article . This short article will only be about the reactions of the enemy and statements of the North Korean defectors who saw the leaflets in their homeland and the interrogation statements of the spies from the north that were caught in the south.

The Target Analysis Section of the 7th PSYOP Group published a newsletter called PSYOP Intelligence Notes. It was full of all kinds of information. It explained North Korean holidays, speech, the way they address each other, their use of mysticism using special days from calendars, and even such menial things as chewing gum and playing cards. In this article I will show a number of leaflets and the intelligence report of what North Korean defectors and captives thought of those leaflets, and intersperse interesting comments from the non-leaflet comments.

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Leaflet 42-65

The issue of 7 June 1968 mentioned a 35 year-old male agent who infiltrated south in 1967. It said that while patrolling with his team he had run across leaflet 42-65. The leaflet depicted differences between North and South Korea. His Battalion commander appeared and confiscated the leaflet and warned him against reading such enemy propaganda. In this case the agent was not impressed with the leaflet and believed it was just printed to criticize the social system of North Korea. Although it showed the austerity of the north, the agent did not find that wrong or insulting. That was just the way it was. The text mentions a modern cement factory in the South. One building in the picture has sign reading Ssangyong Cement:

The output of cement for economic growth increases.

The number of factories producing cement grows as well every year.

In the South, as evidenced by the photo, the modern skyscrapers of concrete are crowding the skyline. The cement used for the construction of these buildings is produced domestically in the

Communist Education

The North Korean Communist Party makes it the prime object of education to foster “personalities who will think, talk, and act exactly as the Party wants.” North Korean youths were forced unconditionally to accept Communist ideas selected by the Party, and their ways of thinking and acting must be based on such ideas. Those that understand and obey the concept should be willing to lay down their personality, their consciousness, and even their life for the Party under the slogan “One for the whole.”

Author's note: As I read this I thought of the death of Spock in Star Trek when he told Captain Kirk, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

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Leaflet 123

This leaflet is designed to show the ability to produce electricity of South Korea. It features four photographs of a dam and various power plants on the front and back. The North Korean military defector, formerly a Senior Private who defected in 1967 was apparently fully brainwashed by the North. He said:

My fellow soldiers and I were not impressed with this leaflet because we knew that the output of the South Korean electrical power plants was far less than that of the plants in North Korea.

The leaflet text is:

ELECTRICITY OF SOUTH KOREA

Rapid Growth

The electricity generation facility is expanding all the time and the supply of electricity is limitless without any rationing.

The Korean Electricity Company is located in Seoul and it contributes toward the people's daily lives and the development of industries.

Choonchun hydroelectric power generation station which was constructed in 1964 has the hydro-power generation capacity of 57,600 kilowatts

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Leaflet 132

The issue of 7 June 1968 mentioned a 23 year-old spy who came south in March 1967. While walking around the safe-house where he was being trained he found leaflet 132 on the ground. He said that he believed the North Korean propaganda at the time and thus could not believe the message on the leaflets. He believed that the buildings and multiple cars were pictures of Japan.

Hooliganism by North Korean Youth

Some North Korean school graduates who became dissatisfied with the menial jobs they were assigned, deserted them and their rural homes and moved to Pyongyang where they became wanderers in the streets. Because they left their jobs they lost their food allotment and were forced to turn to theft and pick-pocketing.

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Leaflet 134

The issue of 7 June 1968 mentioned a 36-year-old male crewman on a spy boat that was captured in April 1967. He knew about the leaflet that featured Navy Lieutenant Yi and was dropped over North Korea in December 1965. Because of the leaflet drop, Lieutenant Yi’s defection to the south was common knowledge all over the North. The captive spy was a true believer and was not impressed by this leaflet. He believed that Lieutenant Yi was a traitor who betrayed his nation.

Another defector stated that it was through these leaflets that he learned that Lieutenant Yi had defected and not been kidnapped by the Americans at Panmunjom as he had been told. The North Koreans had his children broadcast an appeal to the people with tears in their eyes to avenge their father’s kidnapping.

Author’s note: The North Korean government regularly told the people that defectors to the South were immediately shot. This leaflet showed Lieutenant Yi at a press conference as proof that he was well treated. North Korean defectors who evaluated the leaflet said that they felt assured that they would be safe should they go over to the Republic of Korea. Another reader stated that after seeing this leaflet he came to realize that if he defected to South Korea he would receive a warm welcome.

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JILLI Leaflet Mix 18 Showing the Lieutenant Yi Leaflet
These leaflets would be mixed and dropped Together

North Korean Military Grievances

The period of military service is indefinite and there is no leave. You cannot select an occupation after discharge; you will be ordered to a job selected by the government. You cannot marry while in the military. You cannot get promoted unless the political Officer recommends you.

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Leaflet 131

The issue of 10 June 1968 told of a 28-year-old North Korean military defector. He talked about leaflet 131 with the theme of road construction in the Republic of Korea. He said that in January 1967 his political officer brought a copy of this leaflet to a meeting and showed it to the audience. He went on to say that the picture was fake and fabricated from a drawing for propaganda purposes. Even though he had already stated that the roads were all fake, he went on to say that the roads were not built for the betterment of the people, but instead for war preparations. Everyone in the audience seemed to accept the story, but the defector thought there was something fishy about it. The text on this leaflet is:

Our Roads

Paving the country road of Kimhae-eub, in Kyungsangnam-do.

The continuing growth of road construction helps in the achievement of convenient transportation and helps the economy and the people’s livelihoods.

What Gifts should the Americans drop on North Korean Fisherman?

The Americans would question North Korean defectors to determine what gifts were most desirable. In 1966 a defector stated that the best gifts would be cigarette holders (fishermen’s hands are usually wet); cigarette lighters (The matches tend to get wet); nylon cord; sunglasses; cigarette cases (To keep the cigarettes dry) and ball-point pens (they are very expensive in North Korea). The same questions were asked again two years later by the Target Analysis Section of the 7th PSYOP Group. Items that might be placed in gift bags for North Korean fishermen were: electric light bulbs (the fishing boats always needed bulbs and they were scarce); Earmuffs for the cold winter days; Nylon string; Cigarette holders; and brooches for the fishermen’s wife who only have plastic jewelry. If floats were used, they should be thin, not too bulky and the contents should be clearly visible.

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Leaflet 41

The 8 July 1968 issue described a 28-year-old female civilian who defected to South Korea in August 1967. She talked about the leaflet in the form of a 1 won banknote. She said that many children carried this leaflet with them, thinking it was a genuine North Korean one won note. Some children tried to buy candy at the cooperative farm store and the storekeeper scolded them severely, warning them that the leaflet was not money, but a South Korean leaflet on which poison was applied.

A former North Korea officer said about the banknote leaflet that it was so hard to distinguish from real North Korean money that it was occasionally used to purchase goods at stores.

A second defector said:

I saw the one won note safe conduct certificate at the Pantu Museum in Kaesong. I notice that some of the other visitors around me in the museum were also staring at it for some time, amazed at the nearly complete similarity between the one-won note on the leaflet and the real North Korean one-won note.

A third comment was:

I heard that a one-won note leaflet with a defector certificate on one side was receiving considerable attention from the public. On June 18th, I saw a warning about this leaflet posted on the bulletin board of the Social Safety Detachment. The warning read, "South Korea has spread leaflets similar to North Korean money in the Kaesong area. As a result, there seems a possibility of economic disorder. Those having leaflets in their possession are warned to report them without delay. Persons submitting leaflets will be rewarded with merchandize equivalent to the value of the money leaflets.

It was said that people who had reported these leaflets were rewarded with tobacco. About two days later, I heard that approximately thirty of the leaflets were found in a Kaesong department store when the store cashier totaled the day's receipts. I also heard that a Social Safety man used one of the leaflets to purchase cosmetics at the Cooperative Farm Store in order to determine whether the clerk would check the currency. When the saleswoman took the leaflet without checking it closely, the Social Safety man reprimanded her severely.

A fourth defector said:

I saw the North Korean one WON note leaflet at a meeting of the RI (lowest administrative division ranking below a township in the United States) cooperative farm Party Committee when a Social Safety officer showed a few copies of it to some members of the Committee and told them to gather up all such seditious leaflets, especially from children. I later found out that one of the copies of this leaflet had been turned in by a salesgirl serving at the RI cooperative farm store who received it as payment for a notebook sold to a child. The salesgirl was severely scolded for being late in reporting the leaflet.

Author’s Note: It is true that the front of the leaflet is close to the actual North Korean bank note, but all you had to do was turn it over and the entire back was covered with a South Korean flag and propaganda. It cannot be called a counterfeit. It is actually a propaganda parody of the banknote. 500,000 copies of this leaflet were dropped. The surrender message on the back of the banknote leaflet is:

To Soldiers of the People’s Army

This Republic of Korea safe conduct certificate [actually “certificate of security”] provides you with an opportunity for a new life. Bear in mind that your present toil will never change until the Communist regime collapses. Why should you give up your happiness? Please cross over to the South without hesitation. When you come to South Korea, this certificate will guarantee your personal safety when shown to any Republic of Korea or United Nations Command serviceman. We will warmly welcome you. You will be rewarded with money, employment, housing and freedom. Your safety is guaranteed with or without this leaflet.

(Signed) KIM Yong Bae, General, Republic of Korea Army, Chief of Staff

North Korean Actions when Leaflets were found

When South Korean leaflets first began to drop, high party officials launched a false propaganda campaign against them, claiming that the photographs shown in some leaflets had been taken in Japan or the United States merely for propaganda purposes. However, the propaganda had little effect on the North Korean people because they could see street and store signs written in the Hangul Korean alphabet and the women were wearing traditional Korean clothes on the streets. The North Koreans replied that the signs were fakes made just for the photographs. They pointed out that superior North Korean homes were prefabricated, while buildings in the south were made by piling one brick on top of another. With such a slow method, how could Seoul ever become a modern city? They said that all the people on the leaflets were good-looking and wore modern clothes so they must be movie actors. The North Korean Party officials soon realized that the people did not believe their counter-propaganda, and they became quiet.

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Leaflet 144

Another item in the 8 July issue was in regard to the leaflet showing President Pak and his wife on official visits to foreign countries. The people marveled at the fact that Pak took his wife along and they said that it was correct for him to treat his wife as an equal and have her meet foreign dignitaries. They discussed the fact that other dignitaries took their wives along on trips and some female workers complained that their husbands never took them out even when he just went to visit his relatives or perhaps to some form of recreation. Some workers stated that they had never seen Kim Il-sung take his wife on any trips in the country or abroad and wondered why not.

Note: A comment by a 7th PSYOP officer at the end of this statement says:

Kim Il-sung now takes his wife with him and her picture now appears regularly in North Korean papers, probably as a reaction to this leaflet program.

North Korean Agents liked South Korean Pop Songs

While in training, the spies listened to South Korean radio stations on Japanese transistor radios. They preferred to listen to pop music. They knew all the latest songs and the names of the singers. There were 25 agents in training at one base (all former criminals) and when they heard the South Korean pop songs they became sentimental. The songs sounded good and were easy for them to learn whereas the North Korean songs were stiff, used march tunes and were hard to learn. The South Korean songs were related to people’s daily lives while the North Korean songs had fighting themes which were not very interesting. The songs from the South reflected an enjoyment of daily life and were without political propaganda.

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Leaflet 149

A third 8 July comment was on the celebration held by a South Korean couple. Many of the North Koreans stated that they would love to have such a celebration just once in their life. The political officers told the people that the girls dancing and the old couple holding their 60th birthday celebration were enemies of the people. The old couple was landlords or capitalists and the young girls were hired to dance at the celebration. The defector stated that not many of the women believed the Communist cadre.

A second comment by a former North Korean officer said the leaflet made a good impression to the elderly people of North Korea and showed the respect of the older people in the South. Such a party in the north was unthinkable because the work was so hard and the pay so poor that nobody had the time or money to put such an affair together.

The North Korean propagandists stated that the South Koreans were poor and starving and there was no way such a party could happen. The text on the front and back is:

Korean Customs

In a free society beautiful and fine customs are preserved and bettered.
The girls of South Korea enjoy a folk dance on Thanksgiving Day.
Elder Choi is celebrating his 60th birthday jubilee.

The back shows a young child at a celebration and asks:

Brothers in the North!

Are you allowed to enjoy the celebration of a first birthday, a wedding, or a 60th birthday jubilee like your brothers in the South?

We know very well that it is a fact that you cannot take part in the various celebrations like in the old days because you are without funds. Even if you had a modicum of savings to celebrate, you are not allowed to do so and you are not allowed to invite the people. In the South, no party or authority can meddle with your privacy.

Defectors Select the Most Unpleasant Aspect of Life in North Korea

People were oppressed mentally and physically by excessive and incessant assignments from Communist authorities, assignments beyond the people’s capacity. Too heavily burdened by the main jobs and other additional activities assigned by the Party, the administrative organs, and other social circles, people had no leisure time of their own. You could be called at any time for “Social Labor.” This was cleaning streets, paving roads, construction, and harvesting during the farming season. Such activities could last from one to two weeks.

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Leaflet 170

The issue of 9 July 1968 featured a 37-year-old Social Safety Captain who defected in August 1967 and remembered reading a leaflet in regard to a former North Korean agent marrying a South Korean woman. He said that leaflet created a great deal of envy among the North Korean people, especially the women, because they had never seen or been part of a wedding like the one depicted on the leaflet. The wedding scene made a lot of the women grieve over their own lives because they could not hold weddings as lovely as the South Korean women.

The North Korean propagandists said in regard to the wedding leaflet, “Such a wedding is a sheer impossibility for the apprehended North Korean agents as well as common people in the South Korean society.”

Party Interference with Marraige

Party members must check with their higher officials to get permission to marry. The Party screens the prospective spouses’ family background, and if it is found to be unfavorable, the Party official discourages the marriage.

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Leaflet 5-65

Another 9 July story involves a North Korean spy who came to South Korea in December 1967 and later turned himself in. He talked about the leaflet showing the textile factory. He said the leaflet was very impressive and it exploited a North Korean weakness, the lack of cloth and clothing. He recommended that to make the leaflet text stronger, it should mention the annual output of cloth. He also thought that the price of the suits should be mentioned in North Korean currency so everyone would understand that they would be affordable. He said in North Korea, to buy a suit made of an uncomfortable chemical fiber called Nitron; the suit cost 65 won a meter (about two months wages for the average worker), and was so rare that if the people wanted to buy one, it was impossible to find. If you could find a nylon shirt, it cost about 40 won. They were so scarce that you had to find a friendly storekeeper and start making payments early so he would save the shirt for you when it came in.

Customs and Habits

The North Koreans like to chew but they don't have any chewing gum. The closest thing to it is a chewy candy they occasionally used which is made from vanilla and sugar which they call Kum (gum). North Korean Kum does not contain chicle, the chief ingredient of chewing gum.

North Koreans like tattoos and it is common for friends of the same sex to have the inside of their left arms tattooed to show lasting friendship. The Communists did not like the tattoos and regularly criticized those people that had them at team meetings, farmer's association meetings, and other group meetings. Tattooing was criticized as nepotism, putting personal relationships above those owed to society and the State, because such tattoos were a symbol of brotherhood or personal relationships.People having tattoos were asked to remove them; some were able to do so, others were not.

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Ulsan Oil Refinery

Numerous leaflets mention this giant oil refinery so we have selected one that shows an excellent picture of it. The 7 June issue has a statement from a 36-year-old male who was a crewman on a North Korean spy boat and captured in April 1967. He said: “I accept the credibility of the leaflet. He knew about the existence of the refinery from North Korean radio broadcasts which asserted that it was being operated with foreign capital.

A 10 June 1968 issue features a 22-year-old North Korean private who defected in May 1967. He said that the leaflet was the chief topic of conversation among drivers in his unit who were instructed to be very careful with gasoline use because supplies were running short. Drivers received 165 grams of gasoline for every kilometer they drove. They were so desperate for oil that they were squeezing old oil rags. In 1965 the First Army Group announced with pride that 1.5 tons of oil had been salvaged from old rags that year alone. He added: “As far as I know there are no oil refineries in North Korea and all our oil comes from foreign countries including the Soviet Union. The text on the front and back of this leaflet is:

The symbol of Korea’s modern industrialization: the Ulsan oil refinery.

It is the ideal size for a refinery, 1,860,000 square meters and it produces 5,600 kiloliters of various types of oils every day.

The other side of the leaflet depicts and names of and various forms of transportation and oil products. The text is:

Liquid gas; oil for cars; oil for jets, cooking oil; oil for ships and oil for busses and trains.

Since establishment in 1963 in Gyeng-Sang-Nam-Do, the refinery has imported crude oil from foreign countries and has produced various kinds of oil and gas. Even today, new discoveries of crude oil are found and the cost is inexpensive but the expense of processing it is not. By construction the refinery in Ulsan, Korea is self-sufficient in its oil consumption, transportation and industry and exports the surplus.

Anti-Communist Groups in North Korea

There is at least one mention of a group of 21 men that formed an anti-Communist movement motivated by the leaflets in 1965. The group consisted of sons of past landlords, capitalists, religionists, those that favored the South in the Korean War, and others that were out of favor in the Communist regime. The group was eventually found and arrested in November 1967. They felt they were denied advancement in life under Communism and stated that their resolve was stimulated by leaflets and radio broadcasts from the South.

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Leaflet 178

This leaflet told North Korea about the South Korean beer industry. There were three pictures on the front and three on the back that showed where and how the beer was made and the medal that was won in international competition.

A North Korean iron worker who was drafted to be a spy and sent to South Korea in 1967 where he promptly turned himself in said about this leaflet:

He was surprised to learn from this leaflet that South Korea’s OB Beer had won a gold award as the world’s best beer in an international contest. In view of the fact that many of the North Korean people admitted South Korea’s progress in light industries, this leaflet was credible to North Koreans. In North Korea, beer was sold at restaurants and stores, but was scarce. The only bottle beer available in North Korea was Pyongyang Beer, which cost 1 won, 55 chon in North Korean currency per bottle. Pyongyang Beer was also available for stores where it was sold by doi, a measure of volume. The price of beer sold by doi was 1 won, 10 chon per liter. To buy a doi of beer, one had to wait for his turn in line. The beer sold by doi, according to the defector had a poor taste.

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Leaflet 181

A third 9 July comment was on the subject of the leaflet that depicted a rubber shoe shop. The defector stated that this leaflet was very effective because it was dropped at a time when it was impossible to find rubber shoes in North Korea. The authorities actually ordered the suspension of the production of rubber tires in order to manufacture rubber shoes.

An American officer added:

This shows the benefit of using leaflets that are timely and based upon vulnerability in the target group.

Some Odd Intelligence Notes about North Korea

North Koreans show a desire for sexual intercourse by placing the index finger of the right hand up against the horizontal flat palm of the left hand or the thumb inserted between the index finger and the second finger of the other hand.

Five holidays are celebrated in North Vietnam, and 10 special days such as: Anti-Japanese Struggle Force Founding Day, Fatherland Liberation Society Founding day, and Anniversary of the Pochonbo Battle.

The Korean people have always had a high proclivity for bathing and personal cleanliness. It has been the custom of the Korean people to bathe in public bathing houses.

Some old men and women in North Korea still retain the knowledge about how to determine propitious and unlucky days from the lunar calendar. Some people will consult the old people before picking a day for a wedding or some other important event.

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Leaflet 23-65

There were several leaflets that mention propaganda radios. This defector discussed the one that depicted South Korean radio facilities. He said that the leaflet was a great help to him in selecting South Korean radio frequencies. He suggested that the South Korean news program schedules should have also been supplied in the leaflet.

Author’s Note: In North Korea the owner of a radio takes it to the local post office where it is tuned to a North Korean station, and then “fixed” so that the station cannot be changed. It is rumored that some handy radio owners have found ways of tampering with the “fix,” so that they could tune to radio stations in the south. The text above and below the Communist radio without a tuning dial is:

Does everyone get to hear the station they want to hear? Do you want to listen to South Korea? What if everyone who wanted to listen to the radio station were not able to ...

What is the dial on the radio for?

The text on the side showing the western-style radio with a tuning dial gives the various frequencies of South Korean radio stations:

These are the stations available in South Korea.

(A list of 10 AM, FM and shortwave stations follow in either two or three vertical columns)

Is everyone able to listen to any of the stations?

What Happens after the Leaflets are Dropped?

The clean-up and collection of the Jilli leaflets was usually the responsibility of the Red Guard (militia) members who would order the local children to pick up the leaflets. The leaflets were then sent to the local Social Safety Detachment, which conducted research and analysis on where the leaflets were dropped, the people’s reaction, etc. Three copies of the leaflet were then forwarded to the County Social Safety Department and the rest burnt at the end of the year. The people’s reaction to the leaflets was also sought through informers. Every local area had about 50 informers selected by the Social Safety Detachments.

This has been a very short look at some of the Intelligence reports gathered by the 7th PSYOP Group during their top secret Jilli operation against North Korea. It is meant to be just a “taste” of what was going on during the Cold War. The reader must remember at the same time these aircraft were dropping Jilli leaflets the Vietnam War was going on. A C-130 Hercules that dropped leaflets over North Vietnam today might be assigned to drop them over North Korea tomorrow.

Readers with questions or comments on the above article are encouraged to contact the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.