North Korea switches TV transmission to Russia satellite from Chinese

By Daewoung Kim and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has switched the transmission of state TV broadcasts to a Russian satellite from a Chinese one, South Korea's unification ministry said on Monday, making the monitoring of such broadcasts a challenge for the South's government agencies and media.

Signals from North Korea's Korean Central Television were carried by a Russian satellite, Express 103, from June 29 instead of the ChinaSat 12 satellite, a South Korean satellite dish service provider told Reuters.

It declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

The satellite change follows Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to North Korea in June, during which he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and signed a treaty to deepen cooperation in all areas including a mutual defence pledge.

While it remains possible to watch North Korean TV online, the quality may be delayed or of low quality.

South Korean government agencies and media monitor North Korean state media as a limited source of information from inside the reclusive state, despite its highly politicised and choreographed content.

"North Korea stopped using an existing Chinese satellite and began transmitting broadcasts through a Russian satellite, and reception of satellite broadcasts is being restricted in some areas on our side," a unification ministry official said, adding the ministry was looking to resolve the technical issue.

Authorised entities in the South need access to satellite service to watch North Korean broadcasts, and the general public is banned from accessing the North's media.

Reuters has been unable to receive North Korean TV signals since Monday morning.

While Russia and North Korea have made dramatic overtures showcasing deepening ties and vowed to resist the U.S.-led West, China has avoided any trilateral arrangement that might complicate its relations with other countries.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Bernadette Baum)