Last year, shortly after the excerpt from Blizzard in the Jungle was published in the graphic lit issue of WWB, I ran across a blog, oikono.com, maintained by Geoffrey K. See, a Yale graduate student who travels widely and posts cultural artifacts from around the world. He had recently been to North Korea, and after reading one of my earlier translations of North Korean comic books (Great General Mighty Wing, excerpted in WWB in 2009), he posted some pages from one of the North Korean children’s graphic novels he had picked up in a bookstore in China. The first thing that struck me about the pages was that they were posted in mirror-image (by error, it turned out), but in reading them, I was delighted to find that the comic book was about an elite group of North Korean young scientists who are out to save an unnamed African nation from a mysterious evil force! Blizzard in the Jungle, which addressed a similar theme, was published in 2001, but The Secret of Frequency A had been published in 1994. On the one hand, it surprised me to see that a kind of pedagogical/propagandistic “Hardy Boys meets Tom Swift” type of story would be introduced to North Korean children before the more mature Blizzard in the Jungle addressed a similar theme for older readers. On the other hand, this chronology made perfect sense, since it suggested that the same thematic issues would be sustained over time (and also suggested that North Koreans continued to read comics as they grew up). I contacted Geoffrey See, and he graciously emailed me the scans of his pages and later sent me the comic book itself. It is thanks to him that we are able to excerpt it in WWB this year.
The Secret of Frequency A is another example of the “North Korea as world savior” genre of comic books. North Korea has been active in Africa for decades, unbeknownst to the typical American (you can read more about this issue in my introduction to Blizzard in the Jungle), but what a general reader will find more surprising in this story is that North Korea is more than familiar with much of what we, in the U.S., classify as “Conspiracy Theory.” Whereas the villains in Blizzard in the Jungle are the Mafia (oddly out of place in Africa, by our standards), the evil technology involved in Frequency A is associated with mysterious American military “research” projects like HAARP—the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, which has been blamed for things ranging from climate control warfare to mass mind control to last year’s Haiti earthquake—and the use of “chemtrails” (clouds of chemicals sprayed in the atmosphere by military aircraft) for similar purposes.
As Great General Mighty Wing demonstrated, North Korea, with its continued drought-induced famines, is very much concerned with the issue of climate control as a weapon of war. But why is it Frequency A? In Korean, A (ㅏ) is also the first vowel in the alphabet, so calling the mystery frequency “A” makes sense simply as a matter of primacy. On the other hand, since we are looking at a comic book from North Korea that explicitly raises the issue, a more conspiracy-minded explanation may be more appropriate, particularly when it also accounts for other elements in the story. One of the villains, in addition to the Americans, is a Nazi war criminal, Poe. In New Age and fringe circles, it has recently become public knowledge that the international standard for tuning instruments for concert performances, A above Middle C at 440 Hz (Concert A), was only established in 1955 (and reaffirmed twenty years later). You can play it for yourself here: "Concert A."
Concert A has come under fire recently for being disharmonious and for being willfully implemented to produce anxiety in the general population. Alternate standard tunings of 432 Hz and 444 Hz have been proposed by various groups, but the extent to which the “Frequency A” at 440 Hz poses a problem for humanity can be read about in a fascinating article from the Conspiracy Theory front authored by Leonard G. Horowitz, DMD, MA, MPH, DNM (hon.), who sells alternative health products online. The title of the piece is “Musical Cult Control: The Rockefeller Foundation's War on Consciousness through the Imposition of A=440HZ Standard Tuning,” and it covers everything from the Rothschilds to the Rockefellers and Joseph Goebbels. To give you a sense of how much the North Korean comic book is in line with conspiracy theory, according to Horowitz, “the A=440Hz frequency was instituted at the precise time WWII preparations were being finalized by the petrochemical-pharmaceutical war financiers. Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland officially starting WWII on Sept 1, 1939. Only three months earlier, following widespread rejection of the A=440Hz frequency vibration by musicians worldwide, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels argued on behalf of this, apparently very important, intrusion into musical artistry, effectively persuading Hitler’s supposed enemies in Britain to adopt this allegedly superior standard tuning for the ‘Master Race’” (the full article is available online here). The only parallel missing in Horowitz’s piece is a reference to the Japanese, who also have a part in the conspiracy behind the mysterious Frequency A. That will be revealed in a future installment. Stay tuned.
Translation copyright by Heinz Insu Fenkl and Jungbin Yoon. All rights reserved.
No information about this author is available.
No information about this author is available.
Translated from Korean by Heinz Insu Fenkl and by Jungbin Yoon
Heinz Insu Fenkl is an author, editor, translator, folklorist, and professor of creative writing at the State University of New York, New Paltz. His fiction includes Memories of My Ghost Brother, which was a Barnes and Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection in 1996 and PEN/Hemingway finalist in 1997. His most recent prose translation, Yi Mun-yol’s short story, “An Anonymous Island,” was published in the September 12, 2011, issue of the New Yorker and his most recent short story, “Five Arrows,” was published in the August 3rd, 2015, issue of the magazine. He is currently working on a new translation of the classic eighteenth-century Korean Buddhist novel Kuunmong by Kim Man-jung.
Jungbin Yoon is currently attending Oakwood Friends School in the Hudson Valley. She regularly translates a bilingual comic strip, Space Bunny, for the Korean Quarterly. She has an interest in portraiture, and her art has been published in the Korean journal Culture & People. She plans to continue her study of art, psychology, and international relations.