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2008/08/07 11:03 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 15 (August 7, 2008)


Tourist May Not Have Been Fleeing When Shot: Seoul Investigators

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean investigators looking into the shooting death of a South Korean tourist by a North Korean soldier suggested on Aug. 1 that the victim was shot when she was either strolling or standing still after the first shot missed her.

   Park Wang-ja, a 53-year-old housewife from Seoul, was gunned down while touring Mt. Kumgang, a scenic resort on the North's east coast, at early dawn on July 11. She was found dead 200 meters inside a fenced-off North Korean military zone, according to photos of the scene released by Hyundai Asan, the tour operator.

   "We cannot rule out the possibility that Park was standing still or walking slowly when she was shot," Kim Dong-hwan, a firearms expert at the National Institute of Scientific Investigation, told reporters, basing his assumptions on the locations of bullet holes in Park's clothes. The announcement came after a two-day simulation by the eight-member team, including forensics experts and police officers, on South Korea's east coast.

   Kim, a member of the team, said there were matching bullet holes in both Park's black skirt and white shirt. However, if she had been running, there would have been holes only in the skirt because the wind would have blown her shirt, he added.

   He refused to comment, however, on whether the account contradicts North Korea's claim that the tourist had ignored the soldier's order to stop and tried to run away, or if the shooting was a deliberate attack.

   The expert said the soldier is believed to have fired at least three gunshots, as claimed by the North, and the first one may have slightly missed her feet. The investigators also provisionally concluded that the North Korean soldier fired on Park from 100 meters away or less, and there was enough daylight for the soldier to recognize that the intruder was a female South Korean tourist.

   Seoul has conducted an independent probe into the incident, but failed to clear up key questions, including whether the soldier had fired a warning shot.

   North Korea has expressed regret at the death, but refuses to cooperate in South Korea's fact-finding efforts.

   Seoul's Defense Ministry on Aug. 1 denounced North Korea for killing the innocent and unarmed civilian, offering its first official reaction. The ministry said the July 11 shooting of the female tourist not only went against humanitarian standards, but also violated international law.

   The Defense Ministry said taking aimed shots at an unarmed civilian violates all norms and laws on the use of force. "Military force must only be used to defend oneself or one's unit. Shooting unarmed civilians is in violation of every international law and also runs counter to humanitarianism," a ministry official said.


S. Korea Halts Bid for Joint Olympic March with N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has halted its efforts to push for a joint march with North Korea at this week's opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the head of the South Korean Olympic committee said on Aug. 5.
"We've done what we can to make the joint march possible," Lee Yun-taek, who doubles as head of the Korea Sports Council, said. "There is nothing more we can do," he said after the South Korean delegation entered the Olympic Village in Beijing ahead of the opening of the Games on Aug. 8.

   North and South Korea marched together during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics -- just three months after their historic first summit in Pyongyang -- and in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

   The two sides initially agreed at their second summit last year to field a joint delegation of athletes and supporters to Beijing, but the talks bogged down following the North's refusal to discuss details.


N. Korea Likely to Change Venue for World Cup Qualifier with S. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has again expressed intent to change the venue of the final qualifying round of the 2010 World Cup from Pyongyang to a third country when it faces South Korea, the head of South Korea's football governing body said in Beijing on Aug. 4.

   In late June, the two Koreas, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were drawn in Group B of the final qualifying group. It is the second straight time for the Cold War rivals to face each other over finals tickets.

   South Korea are scheduled to play their first qualifier with the North in Pyongyang on Sept. 10 this year and face them again in Seoul on April 1 next year.

   In the previous round, the North successfully moved the first match in March from Pyongyang to the Chinese city of Shanghai after refusing to allow the South to use their national flag and anthem in the North Korean capital.

   But the two played their second match in June in Seoul as scheduled, despite the North's repeated demands to change the venue to a third location.

  The South allowed the North to use their anthem and flag in the Seoul match.

   "North Korea has notified us of its intention via FIFA that it is difficult to allow the use of South Korea's national anthem and flag in the Pyongyang game," Chung Mong-joon, head of the Korea Football Association, said in an interview in Beijing with Yonhap News Agency.

   Chung, also the vice president of FIFA, added, "There is no change in our stance that our flag and anthem should be used in accordance with FIFA regulations."

   Chances are high the first match between the two Koreas will be held in a Chinese city given the precedent, experts said.

   Asia has been allotted 4.5 tickets for the 2010 World Cup. Five groups of four teams competed in the third qualifying round. Only two from each group will advance to the final round that will begin in September.