Pyongyang: Tension has been high for months on the Korean peninsula over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development amid fears it will conduct a sixth nuclear test and more ballistic missile launches in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions.
Kim Jong-un’s hermit state resumed broadcasting the eerie numbers via its radio station in Pyongyang last June, using them to direct their spies across the border in the South.
But the ghostly broadcasts – which are usually broadcast at midnight – was aired last night for the first time since Moon Jae-in was sworn in as South Korea’s new president.
The new coded message was read out on Radio Pyongyang at 1.15am local time by a female announcer.
She said she is instructing “number 27 expedition agents” to “review” their “foreign language lessons”, according to the Seoul’s Yonhap news agency. The woman then called out a series of numbers, such as: “Number 18 on Page 451.” Analysts are still divided over what exactly North Korea is using the codes for.
But espionage experts believe the radio transmissions are designed to give spies secret orders which they can translate using a cipher book. This method was used during the Cold War but it was suspended in 2000 when the two Koreas held a historic summit.
But the broadcasts resumed last June and since then Pyongyang has broadcast numbers on 36 occasions including 16 this year. A previous broadcast addressed the “21st exploration team” and read out: “On page 924 number 49, on page 14 number 76, on page 418 number 37.”
The voice then continued with a further string of numbers and claimed it was calling for a “review” of a “math assignment”. It comes as South Korea’s new president said he was open to talks with Kim Jong-un. Mr Moon has taken a more conciliatory line than his conservative predecessors and has said he would be prepared to go to Pyongyang “if the conditions are right.”