Amid heightened regional tensions in the Korean peninsula, an encrypted radio signal is being broadcast widely out of North Korea. This marks the first time that an encrypted signal has been broadcast out of the reclusive dictatorship since 2000, after the first meeting between governments of North and South Korea.
The message is a 12-minute long sequence of numbers read by a female announcer on the Radio Pyongyang station, also called Voice of Korea. The message was broadcast twice in the past few weeks just after midnight. According to the Korea Times, the message began with the announcer stating that she was dictating homework instructions:
We will now broadcast the math homework review section for 27th trainee for remote education college. Page 459 No. 35, page 913 No. 55, page 135 No. 86 [...]
Korean news agencies have already begun reporting that the signal might be intended for sleeper agents working in the field. Other Korean sources have speculated that it could be simply a test or even a form of psychological warfare intended to rattle the ever-war-ready South Korean government. The broadcasts come one week after South Korea installed the U.S.-made Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system to protect against any possible North Korean missile attacks.
The signal is similar to those coming from other known numbers stations around the world. While the true purpose and even ownership of many numbers stations is still a mystery, it’s generally assumed that they are encrypted messages destined for sleeper agents working for clandestine spy agencies worldwide. This method of sending out encrypted messages dates back to the Cold War, long before the era of digital communications.
UVB-76, one of the most famous numbers stations, has been broadcasting out of western Russia for decades. The signal is nicknamed “The Buzzer” due to its characteristic jarring tone. Since the early 1980s, the station has been the source of many mysterious broadcasts and incidents.
Is this new North Korean signal a form of propaganda, a message to secret agents, or perhaps an equation to predict the exact date humanity destroys itself?
Only time will tell. Unless, of course, glorious leader Kim Jong-Un decides in his infinite wisdom to exterminate all life on earth first.