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2008/07/31 14:10 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 14 (July 31, 2008)

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North Korea Finishes Seventh in Math Olympiad

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea came in seventh in the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) held in Madrid, Spain, finishing one spot higher than last year, officials in Seoul said on July 22.

   According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, North Korea got a total of 173 points, up from 151 points in 2007. The North got two gold medals and four silvers.

   This year's competition was attended by 820 high school students from 97 countries from July 10-22.

   China finished at the top of the standings, followed by Russia, the United States and South Korea. The South gained four gold and two silver medals with 188 points.

   First held in 1959, the IMO is the premier international mathematics competition, with six high school students competing from each country. The countries informally rank themselves against each other by tallying up their individual scores.

   Meanwhile, Radio Free Asia based in Washington said on the same day that the North has participated in the IMO five times and this year's result was its best.

  
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Mongolia Agrees to Import N. Korean Labor: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Mongolia has ratified a deal that will allow North Korean workers entry to the growing Mongolian economy, offering the impoverished communist state a chance to earn hard cash, according to a Mongolian Web site monitored in Seoul on July 23.

   Daily Business News Mongolia reported in a post dated on July 22 that Ulan Bator and Pyongyang have approved a deal that will allow North Koreans to work in the Central Asian country.

   "At the submission of the Government of Mongolia, the Parliament ratified the Mongolia-North Korea Inter-governmental Agreement on exchanging work forces on the 20th of July, 2007," the English-language report said.

   "Such talks have been going on for a long time between the two countries," a Mongolian Embassy official in Seoul said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

   The economy of Mongolia grew at the breakneck pace of nearly 10 percent last year, according to U.S. government statistics. The landlocked country has abundant natural resources, such as mineral deposits.

   With about 30 percent of its population of 2.9 million being nomadic, Mongolia is in great need of laborers to maintain its economic growth. About 200 North Koreans are already reported to be working in the country, an estimate a South Korean source could not immediately verify.

   "They are not illegal," the embassy official said. "Sending workers and forging diplomatic relations are often different issues."

   North Korea severed its diplomatic ties with Mongolia in 1999 amid an economic crisis that forced the regime to shut down nearly 20 embassies overseas, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.

   But the North reestablished diplomatic relations with the country three years later. Its embassy reopened in 2005 and its No. 2 leader, Kim Yong-nam, traveled to Ulan Bator last year.

   "North Korea sends its workers to various parts of the world, such as Russia and the Middle East, just like South Korea did in the 1970s, to win foreign currency," Lee Young-hyeong, a South Korean expert on North Korea said in a 2007 study. The same study noted that over 20,000 North Korean laborers were sent to Russia in 2006 alone.

   International relief groups say North Korea is facing a food crisis and other economic woes. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the North produced only 3 million tons of crops last year, far less than its average over the last five years.

  
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U.S. College Students Visit N. Korea to Teach English: NGO

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Nine American college students, including five Korean-Americans, recently visited Pyongyang as part of an exchange program to teach North Korean students American English, a nongovernmental organization said on July 23.

   "The nine-member team visited North Korea from July 1 to 12 and taught middle and high school students English," Chon Yong-il, head of the Institute for International Strategy and Reconciliation (ISR), said, adding that the project may be the first "knowledge exchange project" approved by North Korea for any U.S. NGO.

   Chon said his team might be the first to teach American English in North Korea, although North Korea has invited British teachers for language training of students.

   "English has now become the most popular foreign language for North Korean students," he said.

   The ISR, which has provided US$32 million worth of medical supplies to North Korea over the past decade, has launched the project as a Global Research Internship for U.S. college students who want to experience North Korea.

  
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Bush Excludes N. Korea from Reference to Tyrannical Regimes

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- U.S. President George W. Bush on July 24 excluded North Korea while referring to tyrannical regimes in an address on the promotion of human rights.

   "For the past seven years, we've spoken out against human rights abuses by tyrannical regimes like those in Iran, Sudan and Syria and Zimbabwe," Bush said in a speech in Washington titled "the Freedom Agenda Introduction."

   "We've spoken candidly about human rights with nations with whom we've got good relations, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia and China," he said.

   It is rare for Bush, who described North Korea as part of an axis of evil along with Iran and Iraq in 2002, to skip North Korea while making a reference to regimes run by tyrants or having poor human rights records.

   Bush notified the Congress in June of his intent to remove North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism by Aug. 11 unless Congress opposes it.

   The move followed North Korea's presentation of its long-overdue declaration of its nuclear holdings in June.

   Bush also took note of a North Korean defector recently admitted to the U.S.

   "We stand with Cho Jin-hae, who witnessed several of her family members starve to death in North Korea," Bush said. "She herself was tortured by the communist authorities."

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Northeastern North Korea in Serious Food Crisis: UN Web Site

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is facing a dire food crisis in its northeastern regions, according to a United Nations-run Web site monitored in Seoul on July 26, amid rising concerns that the situation may be worsened by soaring grain prices and poor harvests.

   Assessing internal reports collected as of this week, ReliefWeb, a Web site run by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, declared that North Korea is in an "acute food and livelihood crisis."
Warning that illnesses such as diarrhea may be spreading, the site said the crisis has been brought on by "insufficient food intake, poor dietary diversity, increasing malnutrition rates" and chronic food deficits.

   The areas undergoing the crisis include the Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces, the site said, adding that the World Food Programme plans to launch a new project to address the food needs in these northeastern regions.

   North Korea, an impoverished nation that is believed to have lost about 2 million people in the 1990s famine, has heavily relied on foreign handouts to feed its 23 million people since then.

   Following recent progress in international talks aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear weapons programs, the United States has shipped about 500,000 tons of promised food aid to the North.

   But according to the South Korean government, the North still lacks at least 1-2 million tons of rice this year to feed its people, while soaring food prices worldwide could aggravate the situation.

   North Korea lost a vast portion of its crops last year due to torrential rains that led to floods, which also killed and displaced a large number of people.

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