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2008/09/11 11:18 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 20 (September 11, 2008)

   *** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korea Marks 60th Anniversary with Emphasis on Building Economic Power

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Despite persistent rumors about its leader's illness, North Korea marked the 60th anniversary of its founding on Sept. 9 with a call for building a socialist economic power through stronger solidarity among its people, as well as a vow to strengthen the military to resist any threat from outside.
Marking the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea), the socialist country held its main national meeting on Sept. 8, one day before the national day, with key officials from the party, military and the Cabinet attending. However, leader Kim Jong-il did not show up at the meeting.

   North Korea's premier, Kim Yong-il, said at the meeting that the North will strive to develop the people's economy and basic industries so that the country's problems regarding food and consumer goods will be resolved as soon as possible. He said that tension is rising on the Korean Peninsula due to antagonistic tactics by "U.S. imperialists and their followers."

   The premier said in a speech that his country will mobilize all of its war potential to "mercilessly" fight any U.S. military attack against the North amid rising tension over its nuclear programs. "The whole People's Army soldiers and people will reinforce self-defense capabilities to cope with any aggressive ploy by the U.S. imperialists."
Pyongyang "is watching closely with high alert" any attempts to stifle the North and "will resolutely and mercilessly punish even the smallest behavior of provocation that infringes upon the sovereignty and interests" of the communist country, he said at the meeting held at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium.

   The premier emphasized that the most important task facing the North is building a "socialist heaven" where people can live affluently without envying others. Then he emphasized the country needs to normalize economic construction and activate revolutions in the fields of agriculture and light industries.

   The premier did not make any mention of the deteriorating inter-Korean relations, merely stressing, "The Korean people will wage a dynamic nationwide struggle to usher in a new era of independent reunification, peace and prosperity by their concerted efforts under the uplifted banner of the historic June 15 joint declaration and the October 4 declaration, and thus surely achieve the cause of national reunification." He was referring to the joint declarations made at the inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 held in Pyongyang.

   "The Army and people of the DPRK are closely watching with a high degree of revolutionary vigilance the moves of the U.S. and its followers to stifle the DPRK and will resolutely and mercilessly retaliate against even the slightest provocative act of infringing upon its sovereign dignity and interests," he said.

   A military parade was held in the North's capital on the day of the anniversary. Its leader, Kim Jong-il, did not make an appearance in the relatively curtailed military parade. Contrary to initial expectations, the parade at the Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang brought together the civilian army and Pyongyang residents. Civilian army troops, called the Worker-Peasant Red Guard, train as soldiers, but they are not part of the permanent military.

   The North's regular Army, Navy and Air Force did not participate in the parade. North Korea was largely expected to hold its largest-ever military parade and a rally of about 1 million Pyongyang citizens in the capital in celebration of the 60th anniversary. Pyongyang held a parade of 20,000 troops and a rally of 1 million Pyongyang citizens on its 50th birthday.

   But North Korea's five major organizations delivered a congratulatory message to its leader Kim Jong-il, vowing to wage a victory in a war against the "U.S. imperialists." "Should the enemies dare to ignite a war," said the message carried by the North's official Korean Central TV, the North "will mercilessly punish the invaders, mobilizing all powerful potential built up in the midst of the rainstorm of military-oriented revolution and achieve final victory in an anti-U.S. war."

   North Korea's No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the North's Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), read the congratulatory message during the ceremony. The message was jointly issued by the North's Workers' Party Central Committee, the Central Military Committee, the National Defense Commission, the SPA Presidium and the Cabinet.

   Meanwhile, the Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the Workers' Party, said in a lengthy editorial issued on Sept. 9 to commemorate the anniversary, "With a strong political and ideological base and unity that is mightier than a nuclear weapon, our republic is demonstrating self-reliance on the international stage without yielding to military attack, political and diplomatic pressure, ideological and cultural offensive and economic isolation by imperialists."

   The newspaper stressed that the country should be "led in the Songun Revolution by Comrade Kim Jong-il." Songun (military-first) is the North's ruling guideline that has been in place since leader Kim Jong-il took power after his father and the North's president, Kim Il-sung, died in 1994.

   "We should continue to make the utmost efforts to strengthen the military power of our republic," the editorial said. It claimed North Korea became a peerless military power with "a strong war deterrent" thanks to the junior Kim's superior leadership.

   It did not specify what the deterrent is, but Pyongyang has often claimed its nuclear weapons provide protection against what it calls U.S. nuclear threats and hostility against the communist state.

   However, North Korea was bustling with preparations for its 60th birthday. Shops on Pyongyang's main streets were decorated with flowers and lights, and commemorative stamps and posters were issued.

   A shoe factory in Pyongyang has been churning out brand-new sports shoes for provision to the people before the Sept. 9 holiday, according to the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published in Japan, last week. Shops in the city's downtown area put up new signboards in different sizes and colors, and installed large mirrors and flower decorations to make them look brighter and vigorous, the daily said on Aug. 28.

   Pyongyang's landmark buildings, streets and bridges were decorated with flowers and colorful lights, North Korean media reported. The North also issued five types of commemorative stamps and printed posters in celebration of the event, while stepping up the project of giving Pyongyang a facelift, the report said.

   North Korea began to repair roads and remodel old-fashioned houses, school buildings, famous restaurants and movie theaters in 2006, timed to be completed with the 60th birthday of the communist regime.

   The Arirang mass games, an annual gymnastic display involving 100,000 performers, has been staged daily before packed crowds in Pyongyang since Aug. 4, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported last month. A new gymnastic display titled "May the Country Prosper" is also being performed this year in celebration of the regime's 60th anniversary, according to the news agency.

   North Korean media have been intensively releasing a series of reports praising the state's leader, Kim Jong-il, ahead of the anniversary.

   "Ten years have passed since the military-oriented policy was carried out on a full scale," the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported. And Kim Jong-il transformed his country into a political, ideological and military power, and laid the groundwork for building an economic power despite every hardship the isolated country faced over the past decade, it claimed.

   The KCNA boasted that over 60,000 construction programs have been completed under the military-first policy, including a large-scale hydroelectric power station in Taechon in North Pyongan Province and a new railway linking Wonsan and Mt. Kumgang on the country's east coast.