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2008/10/27 17:40 KST
(LEAD) N. Korea intensifies control of S. Korean dailies sent to Kaesong

   By Shim Sun-ah
SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has begun to more harshly censor South Korean newspapers subscribed to by firms operating in the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial complex, apparently to prevent workers there from reading reports on their leader Kim Jong-il's health, officials said Monday.

   "The North began to allow South Korean dailies to pass through customs only after cutting out articles critical of the country as of Oct. 20," a Unification Ministry official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

   About 30 copies of nine different papers cross the inter-Korean border every day for delivery to the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee in the complex, a civilian administrative body of South Korean firms there, according to the official.

   The North is strictly enforcing customs regulations barring the entry of overseas publications critical of Pyongyang, the official said.

   It is not known exactly what types of articles have been censored by the North, but officials say the measure could be related to recent reports that Kim is ailing.

   The 66-year-old North Korean leader reportedly suffered a stroke in mid-August and is now recovering after undergoing brain surgery.

   South Korean newspapers had reported in detail speculation on Kim's health and who might assume power in the event of his death, along with information on Kim's family.

   South Koreans are forbidden to carry the newspapers when they leave the office, but some have received warnings from North Korean authorities for violating the rule, according to the Unification Ministry official.

   More than 33,000 North Koreans are currently working for 79 South Korean factories in the Kaesong complex, located just north of the world's most heavily armed border.

   The measure came after North Korea angrily threatened to cut all ties with South Korea because of the anti-Pyongyang leaflets regularly being sent to the North by Seoul-based North Korea defector groups.

   The two Koreas have ceased hostilities along their heavily armed border since 2004, but the groups have been sending the leaflets for years, hoping they might be helpful in expediting the collapse of the secretive regime.

   Pyongyang, in its first direct talks with the conservative Seoul government early this month, demanded Seoul dissuade the groups from using large balloons to send leaflets.

   One of the groups, in the meantime, floated about 40,000 vinyl-coated leaflets attached to four large balloons on the East Sea on Monday as the two Koreas' military officials sat together for their second round of working-level talks.

   The group, Fighters for Free North Korea, planned to send a total of 100,000 leaflets, but decided to fly only a portion of them due to bad weather conditions.

   It said the remaining 60,000 copies will be sent from Ganghwa Island, located near the western sea border with the North.

   North Korea initially asked to hold the meeting to discuss improving military communications facilities between the two Koreas, but again lodged a protest over the anti-Pyongyang leaflets during the 20-minute meeting, according to South Korean military officials.

   sshim@yna.co.kr
(END)