As I listened to Voice of Freedom, Part 1 of 2 I tried to figure out where Ji-Ho (who I originally thought was called Gio) lived before he came to Whit in Whit’s End. I soon figured that the country must have been North Korea, it seemed like it from the scene with Ji-Ho and Kwan at the wall/gate. Later, I was able to make an assumption about the city that Ji-Ho and his family lived in. But it was only after further, more in-depth research that I was able to find and piece together the evidence that indicated that Ji-Ho, his Colonel father, and his sister lived in the Pyongyang, North Korea. In this article I’ll lay out some of the evidence that lead me to that conclusion.
What originally led me to believe that Ji-Ho’s family lived in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang were two things. First, Ji-Ho’s father seemed to be pretty high-ranking in the North Korean military (in the DPRK, unlike in other communist countries, the social status of members of the military is risen above the working people; normally in communism the working people are said to be the “best” people, even though of course the leaders are almost always raised far above the ordinary working people). The second piece of supporting evidence was the fact that they were positioned near the North-South Korean border, or the Demilitarized Zone (which is, ironically, far from demilitarized).
If you still aren’t convinced that the country is North Korea, maybe this will help. Their leader’s name is mentioned to be Kim Hong-Soon, which is extremely similar to the current real North Korean dictator’s name: Kim Jong-Un. They even both have the same surname of Kim. In Korean, by the way, the given name is written (or said, in formal situations that require both given and surname to be spoken) after the surname.
I was pretty confident that Voice of Freedom was set in the DPRK. At least until Ji-Ho’s sister, Ara, threw a wrench into my theory. Her mentioning of going to an indoor waterpark cast doubt on my idea that the country was North Korea. I had never heard of an indoor waterpark in North Korea, though I did know of at least two amusement parks in the country. However, upon further research I found evidence that boosted my theory even further.
Munsu water park opened in Pyongyang, North Korea becoming the first water park in the state to have an indoor area. This matches perfectly with Ara’s description of the “new indoor water park”.
By putting together the facts that Ara said that the water park was new, the fact that the park opened in December 2013 (source: Young Pioneer Tours at https://www.youngpioneertours.com/munsu-waterpark-dprk-guide/), and the fact that the episode takes place in the winter we can figure out the approximate time that Voice of Freedom, Part 1 takes place. I would make the hypothesis that the episode takes place sometime between December 2013 and February 2014, at the latest.
If we need any more confirmation that our country is North Korea, take a look at the below map showing North Korea and Guam. According to Whit, Guam is country that houses the nearest Trans World Radio radio station. Here’s the map:
You might be wondering, however, “how far far can a radio broadcast travel?” Could a radio station in Guam really broadcast all the way to Pyongyang? Well, I looked into that too and found an answer.
That depends on a number of factors, including: the frequencies (wavelengths) on which they broadcast, the levels of electric power going into producing the radio waves (and the power at which they are output from the transmitter), and the height of the transmitting antenna above the terrain that surrounds the transmitter site. Very low frequency (VLF) transmissions, for example, can travel pretty much around the globe, which is why they are used, for example, for transmission of critical, but very short, messages (such as simple attack codes in the event of nuclear warfare) to submarines armed with nuclear missiles. Shortwave and medium wave (e.g., AM radio) broadcasts can reach great distances because the radio waves “bounce” off the upper atmosphere and reflect back to distant terrestrial receivers. In most countries, television stations and FM radio stations can typically reach receivers with a usable signal within a radius of 30 to 60 miles.Ted Coltman, retired senior director of communications at Corporation for Public Broadcasting (1983-2018) via Quora
In short, very low frequency (VLF) transmissions can travel all around the globe so it is very reasonable to assume that a radio station based in Guam could indeed broadcast to North Korea.
Next, I thought I’d try to find the reeducation camp that Ji-Ho was stationed at. After finding a list of North Korean reeducation camps on Wikipedia, I was able to quickly locate the nearest camp to Pyongyang. According to Google Maps, which probably assumes that the North Korean roads are in much better condition than they really are therefore underestimating the time it would take to drive on one of them, it would take about forty minutes to drive from Pyongyang to the nearest concentration camp.
Below is a map centered on Kangdong Reeducation Camp, the closest concentration camp to Pyongyang that I could find. It is about a forty minute’s drive outside of the capital, according to the Google Maps screenshot shown above. You can see the courtyard where Ji-Ho and Kwan had their twenty second sessions in the satellite image.
A piece of evidence that I wasn’t able to make an obvious connection for, however, was the village where Ji-Ho’s first raid occurs. Ji-Ho’s father calls it “Pbanwong (or perhaps Panwong, I’m not 100% sure just from that clip) village”. The closest thing I was able to find, which could actually be the right place, while scouring Google Maps was a county (which could definitely be called a village in Asia) near Pyongyang. Pyongwon county could just be our match. It’s definitely realistically close to Pyongyang, meaning that Pyongwon county could be within the Pyongyang police department’s region, though I’m not sure exactly how policing regions work in North Korea. According to the Google Maps screenshot below, is only about a half hour’s drive out of the centre of Pyongyang. Again, due to the bad road quality in North Korea this is probably quite the underestimate of the time it would take to actually drive that route.
Last, but not least, when doing a site-wide search of Trans World Radio’s website I found something interesting. By typing in “site:twr.org North Korea” into the Google search engine, I was able to find all matches for the term “North Korea” on TWR’s website.
On Trans World Radio’s page about North Korea, they mention that radio is one of the few ways to get the Gospel into the extremely closed-off country. One of the main other methods that Christians, as well as other people wanting to get information from the outside world to the information-deprived people, is small disks. It is relatively easy to smuggle an SD card filled with the Bible or information about the outside world into North Korea by different methods. One of the methods I’ve heard about is people in South Korea releasing helium balloons that will float into North Korea when the wind and weather are right. Anyway, back to Trans World Radio’s webpage about North Korea. On their webpage they write the following:
TWR offers North Koreans one of their only avenues to hear the gospel and be encouraged in their faith. TWR ministers to the North Korean people through […] Providing radio broadcasts that deliver in-depth Bible teaching and systematic tehological [theological] training to Christians and house church leaders.Trans World Radio at https://www.twr.org/n-korea-project/
I hope this article has satisfied your curiosity about where the episode Voice of Freedom, Part 1 of 2 takes place. Note that this article was published in July, before Part 2 is released. If the country and any other locations are straight-out named in Part 2, I didn’t know that yet.
If you like this kind of informative and investigative article, let me know and I’ll do more. One I’ve had in mind is the oft-covered topic of Odyssey time. I’d also be interested to know about any other clues you’ve found that line up with my guess of the location(s) of this episode, or if you have any information that contradicts my theory.