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2008/10/02 11:01 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 23 (October 2, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

Curtain Closes on Pyongyang International Film Festival

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A Chinese war drama containing South Korea-produced special effects was honored as the best film at North Korea's international film festival, which ended on Sept. 26, the North's official news agency reported.

   "Assembly," directed by Feng Xiaogang, won awards for best film, best directing and best technical achievement for a full-length film at the 11th Pyongyang International Film Festival, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The US$10 million-budget Chinese epic, which tells the story of a soldier in the 1948 Chinese civil war fought between communists and nationalists, was the opener at South Korea's Pusan International Film Festival in 2007. All of the film's battle scenes were created by a South Korean special effects team that had previously worked on the 2004 Korean blockbuster "Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War," which is about the Korean War.

   The award for best scenario went to "Mainline," an Iranian film by Rakhshan Bani Etemad that tells the story of growing drug use among Iranian youth, while the cinematography award was given to "Atonement," a World War II saga directed by Britain's Joe Wright and based on Ian McEwan's best-selling novel of the same name.

   Bosnian actor Sasa Petrovic received the best actor award for his role in the film "It's Hard to be Nice," while the award for the best actress went to Baran Kowsari of Mainline, who is also the director's daughter.

   A North Korean children's film, "The Oriole's Song," received an award for composition while another North Korean film, "The Kites Flying in the Sky," was one of many winners of special screening awards, along with films from Germany, Russia, Switzerland, China, France and Britain, according the KCNA.

   The report did not elaborate on the content of the North Korean films.

   Present at the closing ceremony were Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Ro Tu-chol, vice premier of the Cabinet, Culture Minister Kang Nung-su, who is also chairman of the festival organizing committee, and foreign delegates and diplomatic envoys, the report said.

   The annual film festival opened on Sept. 17 for a 10-day run in Pyongyang, with films contributed by at least 70 organizations from more than 40 countries.


N. Korean Media Accuses U.S. of Stalemating Nuclear Talks

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean weekly on Sept. 27 accused the United States of stalemating international talks on the North's nuclear weapons program, calling Washington's delay in removing Pyongyang from its list of terrorist sponsors a "dirty trick."

   For more than a month, North Korea has blamed the U.S. for failing to honor its pledge under a six-party accord to remove Pyongyang from the U.S. government's list of state sponsors terrorism in exchange for disabling its key nuclear facility.

   The U.S. is "playing a dirty trick to pass the responsibility of stalemating the denuclearization process to" North Korea, the North's weekly magazine, the Tongil Sinbo, said.

   The magazine, which reflects North Korean government positions, said Pyongyang has "sufficiently fulfilled its part of the deal."

   This week, North Korea said it would expel United Nations nuclear inspectors and restart its nuclear reprocessing facility, which had been disabled under the six-party denuclearization accord.

   The development was the latest in a recent series of moves by North Korea to backtrack from a 2007 agreement with South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia to disable its key nuclear facilities in return for economic and political incentives.


North Korea Establishes Diplomatic Relations with Kenya

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has established diplomatic relations with Kenya, its state news outlet said on Sept. 28.

   According to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a joint communique on the establishment between the two countries was published in New York on Sept. 26.

   Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Pak Kil-yon, who visited New York to participate in the UN General Assembly, signed the communique with Moses M. Wetangula, Kenya's minister of Foreign Affairs, the KCNA said.

   Both governments decided to establish diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level from the day of signing, proceeding from the desire to promote and strengthen friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries, the KCNA added.

   However, the North already had diplomatic relations with the African country in 1975, as its ambassador in Zimbabwe or South Africa held the ambassadorial post in Nairobi concurrently.

   It is not sure yet whether such a communique means the two countries decided to set up embassies in each other's countries, or whether Kenya, which has not yet dispatched an ambassador to Pyongyang, will dispatch one.

   But the Kenyan local newspaper Sunday Nation on Sept. 28 said Kenya officially established "full" diplomatic relations with North Korea, Bosnia Herzegovina and Guatemala, adding those countries will "open missions" in Nairobi within a few months.

   Last year, the North normalized relations with Myanmar for the first time in 24 years, followed by establishing ambassadorial ties with Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, Swaziland, the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

   As of the end of August, North Korea maintained diplomatic ties with as many as 160 countries, while the South had ties with 188 countries.


Pyongyang Is Responding to U.S. Inaction: N.K. Diplomat

NEW YORK (Yonhap) -- A top North Korean diplomat on Sept. 27 defended his country's recent moves to restart a nuclear facility in response to the United States' refusal to remove the socialist state from a list of terrorism-sponsoring countries.

   Speaking at a U.N. General Assembly session, Pak Gil-yon, vice minister of foreign affairs, said Pyongyang had no choice but to take "countermeasures" based on the "action-for-action" principle, as the U.S. violated the six-party nuclear disarmament deal.

   Washington has impeded the denuclearization process by raising "unjust" demands -- such as internationally recognizable inspections to verify the declaration -- without fulfilling its end of the deal, he claimed.

   North Korea will not pardon any attempt to damage its dignity or violate its sovereign rights, the official said.

   He did not specify what the countermeasures would be, but was apparently referring to the North's recent steps to restore its partially disabled plutonium-producing plant in Yongbyon.

   Pyongyang told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Sept. 24 that it would restart the Yongbyon plant in a week, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said. The North also reportedly removed seals and surveillance equipment from the plant and barred U.N. inspectors from access to the facility.

   Washington promised to take North Korea off the terrorism blacklist in return for the North's provision of a long-waited list of its nuclear activities in June under the six-party disarmament process. The U.S., however, delayed the measure, citing Pyongyang's failure to agree to a verification system.

   Pak called the U.S. demand to unilaterally disarm the North "brigandish," claiming that all six parties -- the U.S., South and North Korea, China, Japan and Russia -- must receive "verification" in the final stage of the disarmament process.


N. Korea Slams Seoul's Decision to Organize N.K. Human Rights Panel

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea blasted South Korea for its decision to create a special panel on North Korean human rights, calling the move an "unpardonable provocation."

   "We solemnly denounce the anti-DPRK human rights fuss by the Lee Myung-bak Group, labeling it as a vicious profanity of our dignity and system and another unpardonable provocation toward us," the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland said in a statement on Sept. 28.

   The statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), came five days after the South's National Human Rights Commission took on a politically sensitive issue by launching a special subcommittee dedicated to examining human rights conditions in the North.

   Since taking office in February, President Lee has vowed not to shy away from raising the issue of North Korean human rights, breaking away from the policies of his two liberal predecessors who refrained from doing so to in order to not provoke the socialist neighbor.

   "The move once again unveiled the pro-U.S. sycophantic and anti-DPRK confrontational nature of the treachery group which have been mad at plotting to do harm and slandering us, taking advantage of the anti-DPRK human rights fuss by the United States," said the North's quasi-governmental propaganda group.

   Pyongyang is taking the move seriously as it follows a reaffirmation made by Lee during an August summit with U.S. President George W. Bush to make meaningful progress on North Korean human rights, the statement said.

   "We will never pardon and sternly punish those who are trying to drive the North-South relations to the phase of thorny confrontation, defaming our socialist political system which is our dignity and life."


N. Korean Leader Sends Congratulatory Message to Chinese President

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The reportedly ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sent a message to Chinese President Hu Jintao and two other top Beijing officials on Sept. 30 to congratulate them on their country's 59th founding anniversary.

   "We send our passionate congratulation and greetings to you and the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government and the people through you on the occasion of the 59th anniversary of the establishment of the People's Republic of China," Kim said in the message carried by the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   In the message, Kim relayed his hope that the traditional ties between the two countries would develop further through their concerted efforts, the KCNA said.

   The message was sent jointly by Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, who serves as the country's titular head of state, and Premier Kim Yong-il to President Hu, China's top legislator Wu Bangguo and Premier Wen Jiabao.

   Kim Jong-il has not made a public appearance since Aug. 14 when he reportedly visited a military unit in North Korea. He skipped a major parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the regime, prompting speculation over his health.

   South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies said Kim, 66, suffered a stroke in the middle of August and is now recovering after having surgery. North Korean officials, however, have denied reports of the leader's poor health.