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2008/06/05 10:08 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea Denies Alleged Starvation Deaths: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea admitted that the country is experiencing a dire shortfall in its food supply, but denied claims by aid groups that massive deaths from starvation have begun in the country, a pro-Pyongyang daily in Japan said on May 30.

   "It's true that our food situation is difficult," said Choson Sinbo, the newspaper of Chongryon, the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, quoting an unnamed official of the North's agricultural ministry.

   The official, however, "strongly denied" allegations that North Koreans are dying of starvation, said the newspaper, which usually represents Pyongyang's position.

   In the Pyongyang-datelined article, the Choson Sinbo said that North Korea launched an all-out campaign to solve the food shortage.

   The North's agricultural ministry officials went to rural areas to help farmers transplant rice, the report said.

   The newspaper also stressed the North's food situation is tight because of floods that devastated crops last year.

   In April, the U.N. World Food Programme warned that the North's annual food deficit is expected to nearly double from last year to 1.83 million tons this year. The Seoul government estimates that the North needs at least 5.42 million tons of cereals a year, but it is 1.24 million tons short this year.

   North Korea has relied on foreign handouts to help feed its 23 million people since the mid-1990s, when about 3 million people are believed to have died of starvation.

   The United States pledged to provide 500,000 tons of food aid to North Korea in the coming months. South Korea, also a major donor nation, has yet to provide aid since the North did not request it amid worsening relations.


North Korea Conducting No-Tobacco Campaign: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea, a country where more than half of the adults smoke, is conducting a no-tobacco campaign nationwide on the occasion of World No-Tobacco Day.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 31 said with the formation of the State Tobacco Control Committee, the campaign is being conducted as a state health activity, and all forms of advertisement, support and promotion of tobacco goods which may encourage smoking are banned throughout the country.

   "The public places have been set as no-smoking districts, people are allowed to smoke only in limited places and smoking among the students is controlled strictly in particular," the news outlet said.

   Choson Sinbo, organ of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, said on June 2 the North will survey the smoking rate of the young across the nation, beginning from middle and high schools in Pyongyang, by the end of next year.

   The newspaper earlier said the smoking rate among the North's males from 15 to 64 years old was 55.8 percent as of November 2005.

   North Korea signed the "Framework Convention on Tobacco Control" of the World Health Organization in 2003.

   An event was held in Pyongyang on May 29 to commemorate the World No Tobacco Day, underlining the need to encourage young people to quit smoking, the KCNA said.


North Korea Marks International Children's Day with Diverse Events

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked the 58th anniversary of International Children's Day on June 1 with diverse events, according to the North's news outlets.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a joint friendship meeting of Korean and foreign women and children took place at the Mangyongdae Fun Fair in Pyongyang, with high-ranking officials in attendance.

   Present were Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Jung-rin, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea, Ryu Mi-yong, chairperson of the Central Committee of the (North) Korean Chondoist Chongu Party, and Kim Yong-jin, minister of Education, the KCNA said.

   The joint meeting was followed by an art performance, colorful sports and amusement games held in Pyongyang and local areas, according to the news agency.

   In a separate article, the KCNA said North Korean children had a happy International Children's Day, saying children of nurseries and kindergartens held similar functions and sang songs.

   The KCNA, in yet another article, also said children of the DPRK (North Korea) are "kings" of the country, and are being raised as the future of the fatherland.

   It added that all preschool children are growing at nurseries and kindergartens at the burden of the state and society.


Lack of Fertilizer Is Most Urgent Problem for N.K. Farmers: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A lack of fertilizer is the most urgent problem for farmers in North Korea, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on June 3, amid indications that the North's chronic food crisis could extend into next year.

   Choson Sinbo, organ of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, quoted a manager of a farm in a suburb of Pyongyang as saying that the production of fertilizer is currently a matter of great urgency, adding the central command economy did not provide enough fertilizer this year.

   Analysts in Seoul said the North, which could face famine this year without outside help, may have a poor crop this year too from the lack of fertilizer.

   The manager said the farm is trying to make compost under the principle of solving the problem on its own. On the same day, the North's broadcaster said the authorities and the people are uniting to supply agro-material and fertilizer to farmers nationwide during the rice planting season.

   The North's acute lack of chemical fertilizer has been aggravated this year because the South, which used to provide 300,000-350,000 tons of fertilizer as a part of humanitarian aid every year, has suspended its provision amid chilled relations with the North since the launch of the conservative government in Seoul in February.

   "Unless the South provides fertilizer to the North by the end of the year, the North will suffer a loss of 500,000 tons of grain," a farm analyst in Seoul said, declining to be named.