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


Sung Kim Nominated as U.S. Special Envoy on Six-Party Nuclear Talks

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The head of the U.S. State Department's Korea desk has been nominated as the nation's special envoy in charge of dealing with North Korean nuclear issues, the White House said this week.

   The nomination of Sung Kim to the position has been sent to the Senate, the White House said in a press release on July 31.

   Kim is currently in Beijing to discuss Pyongyang's denuclearization verification protocol with North Korean and Chinese officials.

   North Korea has yet to respond to a draft protocol presented by the five other states at the latest round of the six-party nuclear talks held in mid-July.

   U.S. President George W. Bush has said he will not delist the North as a state sponsor of terrorism on Aug. 11 without a protocol disclosing the communist state's uranium-based nuclear programs and proliferation.

   Kurt Tong, a National Security Council official dealing with Asian economic affairs, will assume Kim's current position, State Department officials said. Tong has served as an economic affairs counselor at the U.S. embassy in Seoul.

   For the past couple of years, Kim has been working closely with Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the six-party nuclear talks. He also attended the highly publicized destruction of the cooling tower at North Korea's main nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, and brought over 18,800 pages of documents on North Korea's nuclear activities across the Korean border last month, marking a breakthrough in the mired five-year negotiations.

   A Korean-American, Kim has served at U.S. missions in Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo.

   Kim is taking over as deputy head of the U.S. delegation to the six-party talks, a post that has been vacant since Ambassador Joseph DeTrani's resignation last year. DeTrani's predecessor was Jack Pritchard, now the president of the Washington-based Korea Economic Institute.


Chinese Company Sponsors North Korean Athletes in Beijing

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A Chinese company is sponsoring North Korean Olympic athletes by providing them with sportswear and other related items for the Beijing Games, a U.S. radio station said on Aug. 1.

   Washington-based Radio Free Asia said China Hongxing Sports Limited has already provided the North Korean players with sports clothing, socks, sneakers and other sports items.

   The impoverished socialist country dispatched its largest-ever Olympic delegation of 136 members to the Beijing Games with the goal of winning its first gold medal in 12 years.

   "We were looking for countries two years back. North Korea was one of countries. They do have high hope of winning gold medal at Olympic. It is good opportunity of high visibility (for our brand)," said Jenny Yeo, vice president of the Chinese sports items company, in the interview with the broadcaster.

   North Korean players will wear uniforms of the Chinese brand name "Erke," which means "You Conquer."
The North is expected to get gold medals in judo, taekwondo and gymnastics, Yeo said, adding that the sponsorship contract is limited to this one international sports event at present.


Two N. Korean Defectors in Britain Jailed After Caught at Cannabis Farm

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Two North Korean defectors living in Britain were jailed after they were caught working at a secret cannabis farm, a U.S. broadcaster reported on Aug. 2.

   Radio Free Asia (RFA), monitored in Seoul, said a Liverpool court sentenced this week the North Korean men -- who lived in the country under refugee status -- to jail terms, after they were arrested in March during a police raid of a cannabis farm in Southport, a town on the Irish Sea coast.

   Cannabis, a flowering plant, can be cultivated to produce marijuana. Both the cultivation and possession of the plant for recreational use are outlawed in most countries.

   The British police discovered 202 cannabis plants in the raid, estimated to have a street value of between £20,000 (US$39,602) to £30,000.

   One of the men, identified only by his surname Rim, came to Britain in June of last year and was granted asylum, according to the broadcaster. He received a two-year jail sentence.

   Rim was reported to have been offered a job growing the plants for £220 a week, plus free accommodation and food, while working at a Korean grocery store in New Malden.

   New Malden, a town in the southwestern London suburbs, is home to one of the largest South Korean expatriate communities in Europe.

   The other man, last name Ho, was sentenced to six months in jail. Ho came to Britain last April and was also granted asylum, according to RFA. He met Rim in London, the report said.

   Ho reportedly said he had helped a Chinese man transfer some of the plants to larger pots.

   About 850 people presumed to be North Korean defectors reside in Britain, among whom 450 or more have applied for refugee status.

   A total of 130 North Korean defectors were granted refugee status in Britain last year, but all of them had already obtained South Korean citizenship, according to a report by the U.S.-based radio broadcaster Voice of America.

   The defectors are said to have chosen to live in Britain after failing to adapt to life in South Korea.


North Korea Allows a Separated Couple to Reunite After 47 Years

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- After 47 years of separation, a German woman who married a North Korean scientist while he was studying abroad in 1960 has traveled to Pyongyang to be reunited with her husband, according to a Seoul newspaper.

   It is the first time that North Korea’s reclusive regime has allowed a foreigner to enter the country on a private trip for a family reunion.

   The JoongAng Ilbo said that Renate Hong, 71, and her two sons arrived in Pyongyang on July 24, quoting Hong's family and diplomatic sources in Germany. The three left Frankfurt on July 23, traveling to Pyongyang via Beijing, they said.

   Hong, originally from East Germany, married North Korean chemist Hong Ok-geun in 1960. She came to South Korea last year to seek Seoul’s support in her search for her long-lost husband.

   The two were separated in 1961 when North Korea ordered all of its students abroad to return home.

   "I'm so excited. No words can express this feeling,” Renate Hong told the paper as she went to the airport on July 23. Whether the family would be allowed into the North was uncertain up until the last minute, as their visas were not issued until the eve of their departure.

   "Today, my dream is finally realized,” Hong said.

   "It really feels strange to think that I will see my father for the first time in my life,”said Peter Hong, the couple's first son. "I cannot imagine what my father looks like now. I will probably be speechless when I see him."

   "This visit was arranged at the North Korean Red Cross' invitation,” a friend of Renate Hong said. “She would celebrate her birthday on July 27 in North Korea, and I believe she will meet with her husband in Pyongyang.”

   Hong's husband, 74, remarried after returning to the communist state and has been living with his North Korean family in Hamheung, South Hamgyong Province.

   After decades of separation, the couple was able to exchange letters last year with the help of German authorities.

   North Korean news outlets, as of Aug. 6, had not reported on the fact that Hong and her family visited the country.