Police Test `Sonic Bomb` for Combatting G20 Protests

Amid the disputed safety of long-distance directional audio equipment called “sonic bombs,” police held a demonstration of the technology Friday at the mobile squad headquarters of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

Deciding to introduce the equipment to disperse demonstrators ahead of the November G20 summit in Seoul, police transmitted warning sounds of 130, 140 and 150 decibels alternately while narrowing the distance from 100 meters to 64 and 32 meters in the session.

Even a five-second exposure to the warning siren, which repeatedly whistles fast, gives feelings of numbness in the eardrums and queasiness. The audio equipment uses directional speakers designed to concentrate sound on a target within a 15-degree angle.


The sound produced was so powerful that one could feel his or her head beating and vibrating when exposed to warning sirens of 116 decibels at 32 meters away unless the ears were plugged. A person would find it hard to endure the sound even at a distance of 100 meters.

After the demonstration ended, reporters at the scene complained of nausea.

Police plan to use the equipment only for broadcasting until passage of a bill on partial amendment of regulations “on the criteria for police equipment use” and a presidential executive order. They will use the warning sound function after the amendment’s approval.

A police source said, “We will use the equipment at an interval of 30 seconds to prevent people from being exposed to sound of 115 decibels or higher, the permissible level under industrial health rules, for three to five seconds per session.”

The maximum noise level permitted at industrial workplaces is 115 decibels, and sound beyond the 120-decibel level renders pain in people and could cause hearing loss if they are exposed for a prolonged time.

In central Seoul, rallies for and against the G20 were convened in succession.

The Populace Coalition for Action for Coping with the G20, which comprises 81 political parties and civic groups including the progressive Korea Confederation of Trade Unions, the progressive Democratic Labor Party, and the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, held a rally in front of the bell pavilion Bosingak in downtown Seoul Friday afternoon. Some 400 people attended the event dubbed “Day of International Joint Action against the G20.”

Committee chairman Heo Yeong-gu said, “Beginning today, when the G20 Special Protection Act takes effect, many workers, students and civilians will hold rallies to protest the G20 through Nov. 11.”

Police deployed four companies but no physical conflict broke out. The rally lasted for three hours.

More than 500 members of conservative civic groups including Right Korea and the Vietnam War (Agent Orange) veterans’ association also held a “national rally to wish for a successful G20 hosting” at Korea Press Center in Seoul Friday. They pledged not to allow demonstrations against the G20 to go unchecked.