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2008/08/14 10:44 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 16 (August 14, 2008)

   *** INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

President Lee Encounters N. Korea's No. 2 Leader in Beijing

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak briefly encountered North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam on Aug. 8 during a welcoming luncheon hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing ahead of the opening ceremony of the 29th Summer Olympics.

   Lee and Kim were seated diagonally from each other at the same table, along with about 30 other foreign guests during the two-hour luncheon held at the Great Hall of the People, according to the presidential office.

   Lee shook hands with Kim prior to the start of the luncheon, but it was not clear whether the two Korean leaders engaged in any dialogue. As the country's titular head of state, Kim is president of the North's parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly.

   "Nine giant tables were arranged at the luncheon, with President Lee seated at the No. 2 table hosted by Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress," said an official. "Lee was seated third right from Wu, while North Korea's Kim was seated fourth left from the Chinese host. The head table was hosted by Hu."

  Lee, one of more than 90 heads of state and government representatives personally attending the Olympic opening, is the first South Korean president to attend an overseas Olympic opening ceremony.

  
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Seoul Delivers Energy Aid to Pyongyang Under Six-party Accord

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea has delivered part of energy assistance promised to North Korea under a six-nation accord signed last year that has led to the disablement of the North's key nuclear facilities, including the demolition of a cooling tower, the Unification Ministry said on Aug. 8.

   The shipment included 600 tons of round steel bars, according to ministry officials. The denuclearization accord, signed on Feb. 13, 2007, calls on participating countries -- South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia -- to provide 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent assistance to the North.

   In return, Pyongyang was required to shut down and later disable its key nuclear facilities at Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang. The accord also called on the North to declare all its nuclear programs, which the North completed in June after a six-month delay.

   Pyongyang has also destroyed the cooling tower of its only known nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, a move that would take at least months for the communist nation to reverse should it try to get its reactor running again.

   Seoul has so far provided assistance worth 124,000 tons of heavy fuel oil, ministry officials said.

  
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N. Korea Expelling 'Unnecessary' S. Koreans from Mt. Kumgang Resort

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea began to expel what it calls "unnecessary South Koreans" from its scenic mountain resort from early this week amid deteriorating inter-Korean relations. The North said on Aug. 9 that it would carry out its earlier threat to eject "unnecessary" South Koreans from the Mt. Kumgang resort in the communist state beginning early this week.

   As inter-Korean ties continued to worsen, North Korea announced in early August that it would kick all "unnecessary" South Koreans out of the resort on its east coast that has been open to South Korean tourists since 1998. The North's move came as the two Koreas were arguing over who is more to blame for the shooting death of a South Korean woman at the resort by a North Korean soldier on July 11.

   South Korea immediately suspended sightseeing tours to the resort and demanded a joint investigation into the incident. North Korea rejected the South Korean demand and threatened to expel all "unnecessary" South Korean personnel from the area.

   "The measure of expelling personnel of the south side unnecessary in the tourist area of Mt. Kumgang shall take effect from Aug. 10," the North said in a message sent to the South Korean military. The North's message, issued by a lower-level military command in charge of the resort, was aired by the country's Korean Central Broadcasting Station, Radio Pyongyang and the Korean Central News Agency.

   "The first target of the expulsion will be all South Koreans from the state-run tourism agency, as well as those in the just-completed permanent meeting place in the mountain for separated family members in both countries," the statement said. "Expulsion of other South Korean personnel will be made in steps," it added.

   A total of 164 South Korean workers stayed in the resort area as of Aug. 9, according to Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman for Seoul's Unification Ministry. Kim said the North's message brought no change to the South Korean government's position and demanded that Pyongyang take action to resolve the incident.

   Under the North's demand, more than 20 South Koreans returned to the South as of Aug. 12. There are still 140 South Koreans remaining to manage resort facilities. Hyundai Asan, the operator of the resort, however, said initially that none of its 37 officials in the North have been officially informed of the measure. But on Aug. 11, it said it was withdrawing more staff from the mountain resort.

   The North's message again rejected Seoul's demand for a joint probe into the killing and denounced South Korean Lee Myung-bak for seeking Washington's help in pushing Seoul's position on the shooting incident. Lee discussed the issue when U.S. President George W. Bush visited Seoul last week.

   "Traitor Lee Myung-bak, clinging to the coattail of his American master on a visit to South Korea, begged him to urge the North to opt for 'probing the truth' of the July 11 incident," the North's message said. The message also defended the shooting as a "self-defense measure."

  North Korea also said in the message that it will "more strictly limit and control the passage" of South Koreans and their vehicles across the border into the tourist area. It also threatened to take "strong military actions against all violations in the area of Mt. Kumgang and the area under military control."

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N. Korean Boat Collides with S. Korean Ship in East Sea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Two North Korean fishermen were killed when a North Korean fishing boat collided with a South Korean sand carrier off the North's eastern coast on Aug. 12. The collision took place in the early morning of Aug. 12, about 8 kilometers northeast of the North's Jangjon port in the East Sea.

   After examining the cause of the accident, North Korea claimed that the ship collision was caused by the negligence on the part of the South Korean vessel, the official news agency of the communist country said on Aug. 13.

   In a telephone message issued by a lower-level military command in the area of the collision, the North said the accident happened when the captain of the large South Korean sand excavator carelessly piloted his ship alone while the crew was asleep. The message was carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   "This accident happened because the captain of the South side's transport ship failed to see the fishing boat of the North side before his ship as he was steering the ship alone after letting its crewmen, who felt tired, go to sleep," the message said.

   The crewmen of the South Korean barge unanimously admitted that they were asleep when they were questioned by the North, it claimed. The smaller North Korean boat sank after colliding with the "Dongi No. 1," a 658-ton South Korean sand excavator.

   "The serious accident that occurred due to the South side's mistake caused grave consequences, leaving two innocent fishermen of the North side dead and sinking its boat," it stressed.

   The South's vessel was returning home after completing an operation which had been authorized by the North when the accident took place at 2:25 a.m. on Aug. 12. Two other North Koreans aboard the sunken boat were rescued, and all seven crew members of the South Korean barge are safe, according to South Korean officials.

   The North, however, decided to "take a compatriotic measure" of sending back the barge and its crew since the mishap took place accidentally in darkness, the message said. The ship accordingly left the North on Aug. 13, it added.

  (END)