Numbers Stations on the Korean Peninsula

North Korean Numbers Stations

     North Korea ceased numbers broadcasts in voice in December 2000 after five decades of operations. Activities of numbers broadcasts in A-3 mode operated by Pyongyang had gradually decreased following the first-ever inter-Korea summit meeting in June between South Korean President Kim Dae Jun and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
The North Korean numbers stations in voice, which transmitted five-digit figures, had three outlets. Of them, two were broadcast over Radio Pyongyang, the Korean-language service beamed to South Korea and Korean residents in Japan.
The first one that opened with Red Flag Song over Radio Pyongyang on 621, 657, 684, 702, 720, 855, 3250 and 6400kHz at 1500 UTC (midnight Korea and Japan time) was last heard on August 25.
  The other one started with March of the Guerrilla Army on 729, 801, 1080, 3320 and 6250kHz also at 1500UTC. The station was last intercepted December 8. The March of the Guerrilla Army outlet transmitted numbers and correspondents for specific agents or collaborators on fixed dates. For example, messages for the No. 101 were sent on every 10th and 11th of January, March, July and September, while messages for the No. 3166 were transmitted on every 12th and 13th of March, June, September and December. The messages of the second day transmission were a rebroadcast.
      After coded message broadcasts ended, Radio Pyongyang returned to a unified program.
  The last outlet was not affiliated with Radio Pyongyang's service but opened with the same interval signal with that of Radio Pyongyang's external service -- an arranged version of Song of General Kim Il Sung. The station, which appeared on 4770 and 5870kHz, was last monitored on September 11.
     The station played Cantata to Marshal Kim Il Sung after the interval signal. The station was monitored irregularly at 0400, 1000, 1200, 1400, 1700 or 2200UTC. When there were no messages, the station broadcast readings of essays or music played by Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble, Wangjaesan Light Music Troupe, Korean People's Army Concert Troupe, Mansudae Art Troupe and Pibada Opera Troupe.
     At 1230 on every 8th and 28th of March, June, September and December, the station played music "requested by servicemen and workers." At 2200 on December 31st, February 15th and April 14th and at 1200 on January 1st, February 16th and April 15th, only music was played without announcement. February 16th is the birthday of Kim Jong Il and April 15th is the birthday of the late North Korean President Kim Il Sung.

Format of North Korean Numbers Stations

  After opening music, a woman announcer called out the numbers of agents for whom messages would be sent and the starting time of the messages. "During this broadcast, first a message for the No. 2883 will be sent, and then a message for the No. 692 will start from 1208, and a message for the No. 2185 will follow at 1214." A preamble was repeated twice.
     There was no such a preamble in the case of only one message and a woman announcer began with like this: "A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. Count 21. Count 21. Text."
     The voice then went into the text of five-figure groups with a pause between the third and fourth digit like this: "374 79, 686 53, 468 80"
     After a message was finished, an announcement like this followed: "I'll repeat the message. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. A message for the No. 2833 will be sent. Count 21. Count 21. Text." There was no pause between the third and fourth digit this time like this: "37479, 68653, 46880"
     A message ended with announcement of "That's all."

             Morse-code Numbers Stations

  Still, North Korea continues numbers transmissions in Morse code. Numbers broadcasts in Morse code have been active for decades. One of those stations is designated as M40 by ENIGMA. The station transmits five-digit figures.
Messages are rebroadcast 30 minutes later except for CQ303/707/CQ909. The same messages are repeated for two days. The speed of CQ747 is slower, compared with that of other CQ3f. In case of A-2 mode, carrier appears more than 15 minutes before the start of a message.
In "Now, As A Woman," the Japanese version of her best selling book, "The Tears of My Soul,"  North Korean agent Kim Hyun Hee writes she received A-2 Morse-coded messages while she stayed in Guangzhou, southern China, and Macao in 1985. She received messages at midnight on 10th, 11th, 25th and 26th of every month on 8050, 10300 and 16100kHz. The callsign of her group was CQ616 and her individual callsigns were 083,914, 493 and 490. The English version does not mention this practice.
Kim, who was convicted for blowing up a KAL Boeing in 1987, belonged to the Research Department for External Intelligence, one of four intelligence units at the Central Committee of the ruling Workers Party of Korea.
Its format is:
VVV CQ###.### (Repeated for five minutes)
CQ\\\ CQ\\\ CQ\\ HR HR ## ## ==
CQ### CQ### CQ### HR HR ## ## ==

Call     UTC /
         Frequencies in kHz

CQ 113   1400/1600   1430/1630
         5150        6280 (Nov.-Feb.)
         5590        6630 (March-April, Sept.-Oct)
         5810        8210 (May-Aug.)
CQ 466   1500/1600     1530/1630
          4660          5650 (Nov.-Feb.)
          5150          5810 (March-April, Sept.-Oct.)
          5650          6870 (May-Aug.)
CQ 466    0600          0630
        5690          8110 (March-April, Sept.-Oct.)
                       8620 (May-Sept.)
          5590          6680 (Nov.-Feb.)
CQ 747   1000/2000    1030/2030
         10620        12948 (April-Oct.)
          8260        10620 (Nov.-March)
CQ 432   1400/1500    1430/1530
          5535         4600 (Nov.-Feb.)
CQ 974   1400/1500    1430/1530
          5535         6750 (March-April, Sept.-Oct.)
CQ 863   1400/1500    1430/1530
          5535        7400
CQ 735   1600       1630
         5190       5900 (May-Aug.)
CQ211    1400       1430
         5480       6290
1700        1730
         4810        5590
CQ 515   1700       1730
         12300      16100 (April-Oct.)
          8860      12300 (Nov.-March)
CQ303    1630
         3360/4190 (Nov.-Feb.)
CQ 707   1630
         4670/5200 (March-April, Sept.-Oct.)
CQ 909   1630
         5670/6425 (May-Aug.)
CQ 295   1630
CQ 616   2300      2330   (4th, 5th, 20th, 21st)
8110      8880 (April-Oct.)
6845      8850 (Nov.-March)
CQ995    1600     1630
         10350    14600
North Korea operates another Morse-coded station by A-1 mode on 4700 kHz. The station appears irregularly on the hour between evening and early morning in local time.
     Its Format is:
     QTC### NR### ## ##(count) ####(date) #### (time) ### ###
Its callsign is sometimes JVL instead of JVG. When there is no message, it sends QRU.

South Korean Numbers Stations

      Numbers stations believed to be operated by South Korea was first noted in late 1970s. The purpose and the nature of the stations remain in a mystery. The stations appear sporadically on the hour or the half hour at night and early morning (Korea time) on 4500, 4600, 4940, 5450, 5715 or 6215kHz. The stations start with a Korean song. Various songs have been used. North Koreafs Song of General Kim Il Sung is among them. Texts are either four-figure or five-figure groups. The stations occasionally end after only playing music.

 Format of South Korean Numbers Stations 

     The typical format of the stations is as follows:  "The No. 3825, the No. 3825. Please receive a message.
Count 64. Text." A woman announcer then goes into the text with a pause between the third and fourth in the case of five digits and between the second and third in the case of four digits.
     The text is repeated again without pause between digits, saying "I'll repeat the message again." The broadcast ends with such an announcement like this: "That's all. Thank you."

(Copyright 2001. The Asian Broadcasting Institute All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form without prior written permission of the Asian Broadcasting Institute)

Return to Top