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2008/09/18 10:57 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 21 (September 18, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Koreans Receive Special Rations on Anniversary

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Koreans received special rations of liquor, cookies, blankets and sports shoes in early September in honor of the socialist country's 60th founding anniversary, the mouthpiece for a pro-Pyongyang organization in Japan reported on Sept. 11.

   "Holiday rations were distributed across the country to mark the 60th anniversary of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/ North Korea)," said Choson Sinbo, an organ of Chongryon, or the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

   "Concerned bodies had prepared for the distribution well before the holiday to ensure that all households enjoy the day," it added.

   The anniversary, which fell on Sept. 9, is one of the most celebrated holidays in North Korea, along with the birthdays of leader Kim Jong-il, his late father Kim Il-sung and the founding of the Workers' Party.

   The North usually provides its citizens with specially produced consumer goods to add festivity to these holidays.

   Factories in Pyongyang, for instance, finished churning out goods -- including liquor, cookies, sweets, beer, oil, blankets, shoes and rain coats -- by the end of August, the report noted.

   The North's socialist government officially came into being in 1948, three years after the Korean Peninsula was liberated from Japanese colonial rule in 1945. A U.S.-backed pro-western government was set up in what is now South Korea.


N. Korea Emphasizes National Unity amid Reports of Kim's Illness

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea emphasized on Sept. 14 the necessity of maintaining national unity and loyalty towards leader Kim Jong-il, amid recent reports that Kim had collapsed and is recovering from a stroke or cerebral hemorrhage.

   A lengthy political discourse that appeared in North Korea's official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun -- and was carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency -- said that the country's mightiest weapon is unity.

   "Our mightiest weapon -- the real missile -- is 'the missile of unity.' There are weapons that can destroy missiles, but there is not any weapon that can destroy a crystal made up of tens of millions of hearts," the newspaper said.

   Stressing the importance of Kim to the state, it said: "At the center of our unity is our leader. Our leader's greatness will enhance our unity."

   The article lavished Kim with praise, and quoted him as saying: "It is natural for me to struggle, and of course I would like to rest with my family. However, because our people and soldiers are important to me, I sacrifice my personal life and follow the road of revolution."

   "The unity blossoming in this land is the sublime crystalloid of general Kim Jong-il's limitless devotion," the newspaper said.

   There has been a flurry of speculation since the early September surrounding the North Korean leader's health following his absence at the country's 60th founding anniversary military parade in Pyongyang on Sept. 9.

   Reports have surfaced that Western and Chinese doctors have flown into the socialist state.


North Korea Marks 'Chuseok' Holiday Amid Rumors of Kim Jong-il's Illness

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked the Chuseok holiday or Korean thanksgiving day, which fell on Sept. 14, as usual, despite rumors that its leader Kim Jong-il has suffered a stroke.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the North's party and government cadres placed ceremonial wreaths in front of the graves of revolutionary "martyrs" including Kim Jong-il's ancestors.

   Kim, who did not attend the 60th anniversary ceremony of the North on Sept. 9, sparking the speculation over his health, also sent wreaths to the graves of his great-grand parents and grandparents but he did not show up at the ceremony.

   The wreaths were put on the graves of martyrs across the country, "remembering the sacrifice of those fighters," the KCNA said.

   Meanwhile, the North's media introduced traditional Chuseok customs such as making food and paying homage at ancestors' graves along with folk games.

   The Sixth National Ssirum (Korean Wrestling) Tournament for the Grand Bull Prize was held on Rungra Island of Pyongyang from Sept. 13-15 on the occasion of the traditional holiday.


North Korean Academic Stresses Long-range Calculation for Food Demand

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean academic has urged that future food demand is taken into consideration in the country, saying such calculation is an important means of solving its urgent food problem.

   The Gazette of Academy of Social Sciences in its autumn edition, which was acquired in Seoul recently, ran an article saying the long-range calculation of food demand is the most scientific method of solving the food problem in the shortest possible term on the principle of self-sufficiency.

   The call came as international agencies expect the North to suffer food shortage next year, while the North has depended upon foreign food aid since the late 1990s.

   "If you adhere to immediate profits without prospective calculations, you can not solve the food problem of the country in the end, rather negatively affecting the future food problem," the author of the article in the bulletin, named Ryu Kyong-sam, said.

   The exact calculation of food demand in the long-term is the precondition to planning the overall social structure of production to solve the food problem, the scholar said.

   Ryu, however, said the demand of a socialist economy - considering "people's demand" in calculations - is different from that of market economies, which is based on market surveys thoroughly centering on the demand of those who can pay.


Pro-Pyongyang Daily Denies Allegations of Kim's Illness

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The mouthpiece of a Japan-based pro-Pyongyang group denied rumors of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's health problems on Sept. 17, claiming the socialist country's news media refrained from covering Kim's public activities due to high tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

   "There have been times when the supreme leader's activities have not been made public through news media for certain periods when confrontation between the DPRK (North Korea) and the United States has intensified and tension has risen on the peninsula," Choson Sinbo reported.

   The organ of Chongryon, or the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, is known to represent the official Pyongyang party line.

   The Korean-language daily said Kim's notable absence from a parade in Pyongyang marking North Korea's 60th anniversary on Sept. 9 prompted a variety of "arbitrary interpretations and speculation" on his health.

   North Korean media have not reported a public appearance by the 66-year-old Kim since Aug. 14, when he reportedly inspected a military unit.

   South Korea's main intelligence agency said Kim suffered a stroke in the middle of the previous month, but that he is recovering well enough to brush his teeth by himself and stand on his feet if assisted.

   Seoul's Unification Ministry dealing with North Korean affairs notes, however, they have yet to verify the intelligence report. There has been no report on Kim's health from Pyongyang's state-run news media since it became a hot issue worldwide.

   Earlier, North Korean diplomats in New York on Sept. 10 described as nonsense media speculation over their leader's health problems.

   A North Korean official at the country's representative to the United Nations dismissed questions from a Yonhap News Agency correspondent seeking to confirm the intelligence report.