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2008/09/25 10:56 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 22 (September 25, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N.K. Says U.S. Financial Meltdown a Showcase of Capitalism's Weakness

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea made cynical remarks about Wall Street's recent financial meltdown, saying the unprecedented financial crisis showcases the weakness of capitalism.

   Radio Pyongyang on Sept. 21 announced that "amid agonizing cries" of financial meltdown, the U.S.'s No. 4 investment bank, Lehman Brothers, filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15 due to over-exposure to the subprime mortgage crisis, while the No. 3 investment bank Merrill Lynch also was sold at a discount to the Bank of America.

   The move also alluded to U.S. mega-insurer AIG's urgent call for government support due to mismanagement, the broadcaster added.

   The socialist country's mouthpieces have usually highlighted the negative sides of capitalism, while claiming that the North is the country to spread its own socialism in the 21st century as an alternative.

   "The spillout effect of the U.S. financial crisis is felt in other countries and regions, too," the broadcaster said, adding that there is "big chaos" in other capitalist countries, such as Japan.

   "Such facts show the weak nature of the capitalist economy, which is characterized by speculation, swindle and disorder along with confusion," the broadcaster added.

  
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N. Korea Blasts Lee for Opposing Dormitory Construction in Kaesong

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The mouthpiece of North Korea's Workers' Party lambasted South Korea's president on Sept. 21 for opposing a plan by local companies to build a dormitory for workers at an inter-Korean industrial complex in the border town of Kaesong.

   President Lee Myung-bak expressed disapproval about the gathering of North Korean workers into one dormitory, citing concerns over how it might affect investor sentiment, while meeting with a group of South Korean business officials early this month. He offered other hypothetical projections, such as friction regarding labor-management and even an inter-Korean conflict.

   Rodong Sinmun denounced the South Korean president, saying he is attempting to thwart development at Kaesong.

   "Lee is plotting to destroy the Kaesong industrial complex by insisting the construction of a new dormitory there would trigger labor-management conflicts," the newspaper said in a commentary.

   "Any mention of labor-management conflict is an insult to us. Lee is actually trying to ruin all business projects in Kaesong."
The North's paper, again calling Lee a "traitor," warned that inter-Korean relations are hopeless as long as Lee continues to harbor an "anti-nationalistic" way of thinking.

   The government of Lee's predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun, concluded a deal with Pyongyang last December to build a dormitory capable of accommodating 15,000 North Korean workers employed by South Korean companies at the Kaesong industrial park, located just north of the inter-Korean border.

   With inter-Korean dialogue suspended following Lee's inauguration in February, however, progress on the Kaesong dormitory has halted completely.

   About 32,000 North Koreans currently work for 79 South Korean manufacturing plants at the Kaesong complex, a legacy of the previous South Korean liberal governments' engagement policy towards the North. The North Korean workers commute by bus from Kaesong, which has a population of about 150,000.

   North Korea has persistently asked for the construction of dormitory facilities inside the industrial complex, arguing that additional South Korean plants built there in the future will likely find it difficult to recruit an adequate amount workers from among Kaesong's residents.

  
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UN Chief Sends Message to North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently sent a congratulatory message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to mark the 60th founding anniversary of the socialist country, according to radio report monitored in Seoul on Sept. 22.

   Radio Pyongyang said Secretary-General Ban sent the message on Sept. 3.

   It was the first time since Ban's inauguration two years ago that a North Korean media outlet has directly stated his name.

   The broadcaster quoted Ban as saying that he was very happy to extend his heartfelt congratulations to the government and people of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name, on the occasion of the nation's founding anniversary.

   Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, has expressed concern over the state of North Korean affairs since assuming his position as head of the U.N. in January 2007.

  
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N. Korea Says It Won't 'Sit Idle' Through S. Korea-U.S. War Exercises

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Sept. 22 harshly condemned a series of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises carried out in mid-August, calling them a "scheme to provoke war."
Rodong Sinmun, the North's most influential daily, said Washington and Seoul have destroyed peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and driven inter-Korean relations to an irreversibly catastrophic point.

   South Korea and the United States annually hold joint military drills, code named "Key Resolve," "Foal Eagle" and "Ulchi Freedom Guardian," to ensure their joint defense capability to react against any contingency on the Korean Peninsula.

   "Our revolutionary armed forces will never sit idle through the senseless scheme to provoke war by the U.S. imperialists and the Lee Myung-bak group," the newspaper said in a commentary.

   The last Ulchi exercise was the largest ever in terms of number of troops involved -- about 56,000 South Korean troops and 10,000 U.S. soldiers.

   Apart from the regular drills, the two sides plan to launch a large-scale joint landing exercise involving about 10,000 U.S. and South Korean marine forces in November, according to military sources in Seoul.

   The annual drills are defense-oriented, but the communist North routinely criticizes the exercises as a prelude to war.

   Washington currently maintains some 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against possible aggression from North Korea. The two Koreas technically remain at war as the Korean War ended with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

   The editorial noted that the new drill comes at a time when Washington and Seoul are "unilaterally" trying to disarm North Korea's nuclear weapons in violation of the six-party deal signed last year.

   Pyongyang has accused Washington of reneging on its promise to take the socialist state off a list of terrorism-sponsoring countries. Washington has refused to delist the North unless Pyongyang agrees to ways to a verification regime.

   The North said the war games are dangerous especially because they are intended to prepare for a nuclear war on the peninsula. It pointed to U.S. mobilization of "various means of a nuclear strike" as proof.

   The newspaper warned that the current situation has forced the North to reinforce its military-first policy and combat posture against invasion threats.

  (END)