Ham contacts in Cuba or North Korea? ...

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by K9ROC, Apr 26, 2012.

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  1. K9ROC

    K9ROC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just got my General license and no HF radio yet, so no practical experience with HF/DXing.

    I've been wondering, are there amateur contacts to be made in places like North Korea and Cuba? I would imagine that even if people there could scare-up the hardware, the govt. would frown-on their radio activity (that of course could be an understatement).

    Or what about amateur radio contacts in the USSR before say 1990?

    What about amateur radio contacts in some of the more repressive countries in Africa?

  2. WM3O

    WM3O Ham Member QRZ Page

    turn on your radio, CO6RD is on daily. Cuba is not very difficult to work on 6-160

    P5 is not likely to happen in the next few years.
  3. N8HM

    N8HM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    There are tons of Cubans. There are some, like CO8LY, that are on constantly - all bands, all modes, all times of day. And he can hear anything.

    The only two countries with no amateur activity at all are North Korea and Yemen.

    I have worked Cuba 53 times from my apartment station since 1/1/2011

    No. Date UTC Band Callsign QTH Operator Mode RSTs
    1. 2011-02-16 12:17 20 m CO2OQ JT65 -10
    2. 2011-02-20 18:11 15 m CO8ZZ CW 599
    3. 2011-02-20 18:13 15 m CO6LP CW 599
    4. 2011-02-23 23:54 20 m CO3TJ PSK31 599
    5. 2011-03-12 17:49 20 m CO2NO PSK31 599
    6. 2011-03-12 17:54 20 m CO2MS PSK31 599
    7. 2011-03-13 17:42 12 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    8. 2011-03-19 14:24 15 m CO2WL RTTY 599
    9. 2011-03-20 16:44 15 m CO8FD PSK31 599
    10. 2011-03-22 21:38 17 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    11. 2011-03-26 19:27 15 m CO8LY SSB 59
    12. 2011-04-02 22:00 15 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    13. 2011-04-11 21:14 15 m CO6PI PSK31 599
    14. 2011-04-11 21:26 15 m CO2WL PSK31 599
    15. 2011-04-15 21:42 15 m CO6LE PSK31 599
    16. 2011-04-15 22:24 15 m CO4SM PSK31 599
    17. 2011-04-16 01:32 20 m CO2JC PSK31 599
    18. 2011-04-18 23:24 20 m CO2NO RTTY 599
    19. 2011-04-23 21:02 15 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    20. 2011-04-26 22:01 17 m CO6LC SSB 59
    21. 2011-05-07 17:17 15 m CO2JD PSK31 599
    22. 2011-05-14 23:10 15 m CO2WL RTTY 599
    23. 2011-05-15 00:05 15 m CO2QM PSK63 599
    24. 2011-05-22 20:22 17 m CO6LC SSB 59
    25. 2011-07-23 19:58 17 m CO8LY PSK31 599
    26. 2011-09-16 21:01 15 m CO6LC SSB 59
    27. 2011-09-25 21:14 10 m CO8TW RTTY 599
    28. 2011-10-30 23:17 15 m CO8LY SSB 59
    29. 2011-11-13 16:27 15 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    30. 2011-11-13 19:38 15 m CO2CW RTTY 599
    31. 2011-11-27 19:55 15 m CO8LY CW 599
    32. 2011-12-02 23:59 20 m CO3TJ PSK31 599
    33. 2011-12-10 15:02 10 m CO6LC SSB 59
    34. 2011-12-11 17:14 10 m CO8ZZ SSB 59
    35. 2012-01-07 21:21 15 m CO8LY RTTY 599
    36. 2012-01-08 20:04 15 m CO8ZZ RTTY 599
    37. 2012-01-14 16:33 15 m CO2AJ RTTY 599
    38. 2012-02-11 16:56 15 m CO2GL RTTY 599
    39. 2012-02-11 20:13 15 m CO6LP RTTY 599
    40. 2012-02-12 14:25 15 m CO2CW RTTY 599
    41. 2012-02-12 21:26 15 m CO2OQ RTTY 599
    42. 2012-02-18 20:05 15 m CO8LY CW 599
    43. 2012-03-03 18:36 15 m CO2CW SSB 59
    44. 2012-03-25 12:44 20 m CO6LC SSB 59
    45. 2012-03-25 21:14 20 m CO2GG SSB 59
    46. 2012-04-07 16:04 20 m CO2VE RTTY 599
    47. 2012-04-07 22:33 20 m CO2WL RTTY 599
    1. 2011-02-12 17:23 15 m CM3RPN RTTY 599
    2. 2011-04-13 21:41 15 m CM3RPN PSK31 599
    3. 2011-12-11 14:44 10 m CM8AKD SSB 59
    4. 2011-12-17 15:14 15 m CM2RVA RTTY 59
    5. 2012-01-08 20:24 15 m CM2RVA RTTY 599
    6. 2012-02-11 18:17 15 m CM3RPN RTTY 599
  4. AA0CW

    AA0CW Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've made a lot of contacts with Hams in Cuba on hf and the fm satellites and one of my favorite QSL cards is from CO2GL. Some of the nicest guys I've had a QSO with. North Korea, no.
  5. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    As already stated, lots of very active Cuban hams. No hams in No. Korea. You're not even allowed to visit with any ham gear; that permission was granted "once" several years ago and never repeated.

    USSR was always very easy to work with lots of active hams while it was under Soviet rule. In fact, their QSL Bureau "Box 88, Moscow" was probably the second busiest bureau in the world, right after ours. They never repressed ham radio operations.

    In fact, in 1984 I was in a CW contact with a ham in the USSR who told me he was sad that the Soviet Union would not be participating in the Olympic games in Los Angeles. I sent, "What?" I couldn't believe it. That was news to me, and had not yet been announced here. They knew this before we did. I was astonished.

    Most African nations have some ham activity. Some are so poor and repressed that the activity is almost entirely missionaries who are hams from other countries and visiting; but they can operate.
  6. N4KZ

    N4KZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Realizing you are a relatively new ham without the benefit of a lot of ham radio history, let's hit some of the hit points:

    --There are many Cuban hams on HF daily - primarily SSB and CW. They primarily use vintage-type gear but they do well with it. This has been the case my whole time on the ham bands -- more than 40 years now.

    --Of course, there are many Russian hams on HF these days. Somewhere fewer from other nations that were at one time part of the old Soviet Union. I started as a ham while in high school and used to tell my teachers about my contacts into the then-Soviet Union. More than one teacher called me a liar because they incorrectly assumed the Soviet regime to be so repressive that anyone with a shortwave radio would be shot on sight. But that was not the case at all. The Soviets understood that by fostering ham radio among its citizens, it was creating future electronic engineers and others needed to win the Cold War. Hams during that time period usually ran homemade or old military surplus gear. It didn't always sound the best -- Russian chirpy sounding CW signals on 20 meters were legendary -- but they were on the air a lot. But they were heavily monitored by someone at home and seldom got into a long conversation. They would give a signal report, their name, QTH and briefly describe their gear. That was it. But around 1991 things changed with glasnost and suddenly they had the freedom to talk much more. I recall the first several QSOs I had with Russians on 15 meter SSB back then. Suddenly, those guys would talk, and talk and talk. It was refreshing and I know they enjoyed it too.

    --Since the Soviets were big advocates of ham radio, much of the rest of the old Communist world followed suit. That's largely the reason ham radio still does well in Cuba. Eastern Europe was much the same with lots of hams and ham clubs but plenty of homemade gear. One place that was more liberal was Yugoslavia. Those guys seemed to have access to Japanese-made ham gear when others in Soviet satellite countries didn't and they had ham clubs in Yugoslavia with paid secretaries to answer QSL cards and do other clerical work. Nice.

    These days, hams in the former Soviet Union and all of its so-called satellite nations run nice modern gear that works well. I still smile when I am told by a ham in Moscow that he's running a $10,000 Japanese-made transceiver and an expensive American made linear amplifier. Such was not always the case.

    --The Chinese were slower to embrace ham radio than the Soviets but they too started seeing the merits of it in the 1980s when a few club stations popped up on the HF bands. Those early stations were mainly at colleges and universities. I recall working a Chinese ham in the early 1990s and he a different prefix. The early Chinese club stations all had BY prefixes in their calls. This fellow, as I recall, was a BA prefix. I asked why and he said it was because he was the first Chinese citizen to be authorized to have a ham station at his home.

    --The North Koreans? Not much to say there. Never a Korean national on the air to my knowledge. They did permit a UN aid worker from the nation of Georgia to operate on the ham bands for a couple of years in the early 2000s but then they forced him to shut down without explanation.

    --Nada from Yemen and Burma too.

    --Africa is an interesting place in the ham radio world because activity over the years has grown and shrunk and grown and shrunk depending on local politics in the various nations. When I got on the air in the late 1960s, some nations were still European colonies although many had gained their independence or never been colonized to begin with. I used to work a lot of missionaries, teachers, engineers. You still encounter some of those but seems like not as many. Many DXpeditions operate from rare African nations. The only country I still need to work in Africa is Eritrea which used to be part of Ethiopia and I worked ET3USA, the US Air Force club station in Asmara, Ethiopia many times and have QSLs. Today, Eritrea is an independent nation and even though I worked it before it only counted as Ethiopia and not Eritrea. The situation in Eritrea is difficult now and not much ham radio.

    --There have always been many hams in Japan but now the hobby has really taken off in many or most of the nations around the Pacific Rim. It's much easier to have contacts there now than many years ago. More hams now in India, South Korea, Indonesia, China, Thailand, etc. As standards of living increase, ham radio seems to often follow behind in increasing numbers.

    More than you wanted to know.
    73, N4KZ
  7. K9ROC

    K9ROC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow, great thread guys, thanks! I really appreciate all the time those took. I love reading this stuff and really didn't know any of that.
  8. N4KZ

    N4KZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    OK, one more story to tell regarding the fall of the Soviet Union and the impact it had on ham radio.

    Around 1993, I was on the air one day, 15 meter SSB as I recall, and I was working a Russian ham who spoke terrific English. And he was downright chatty. He told me the most amazing story. I have written a few stories published in QST and CQ over the years and regret not following up on this one and having it published. So here it is now.

    This Russian ham told me that he had talked on 20 meter SSB with a number of hams around Boston, Mass. over the years. He got to consider them friends because they talked so often on the air. When glasnost made it possible for him to travel outside Russia for the first time in his life, he gathered up his rubles and bought a two-way plane ticket to Boston so he could meet his friends. After all, in the old days this was not possible but now it was and he was going for it.

    He was met by his American friends at the airport in Boston. He stayed in their homes, ate their food and enjoyed their friendship person-to-person. And on the Saturday afternoon of his visit, he attended a ham club meeting in Boston.

    Unknown to him, club members had passed the hat and collected money, he told me. Enough money to purchase a used Kenwood TS-440S transceiver, a very popular HF transceiver at the time.

    During the club meeting, he was presented with this Kenwood rig as a gift he could take back home to Russia.

    "I cried like a baby," I remember him telling me. "I could not believe the generosity of my American friends."

    So he took the Kenwood TS-440S home to Russia.

    Immediately, he told me, it made him a very popular person. "We knew of these rigs made in Japan," he said. "We saw them in the ham magazine advertisements but none of us had ever seen one in person.

    For the next two years, hams from all over his region of Russia rode the train to his home to see this fancy ham rig in person.

    Nearly 20 years later, I can still say it was one of the finest contacts I ever had on ham radio.

    Welcome to ham radio, K9ROC. Oh, we might have our wrinkles from time to time but as a group these are among the finest men and women on the planet. Enjoy your ham radio experience. There's nothing like it.

    73, N4KZ
  9. AA0CW

    AA0CW Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Oh and yes you can mail a QSL card directly to Cuba and get one back. A local ham asked me that some time ago. It seems most of the Cubans use a QSL manager in Spain, but you can mail one directly to Cuba if you want. And Russia and China too.
  10. W6OGC

    W6OGC Ham Member QRZ Page

    "The only thing new in the world is history you don't know." Harry S. Truman
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