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2008/11/06 11:27 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 28 (November 6, 2008)


S. Korean President Cites N. Korean Leader as Drag on National Brand

SEOUL 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on Oct. 30 that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is one of three major factors undermining South Korea's national brand, the others being the nation's outdated labor laws and its frequent street demonstrations.

   "A foreign report noted that three main factors weigh on the Republic of Korea's national brand value. The first one is labor-management conflict, the second is illegal street rallies and the third is North Korea's Kim Jong-il," Lee was quoted by his spokesman as saying during a private government meeting on national competitiveness.The Republic of Korea is the official name of South Korea.

   "We can attain improvement in addressing the first and second problems, depending on our efforts. We must use this ongoing economic crisis as an opportunity to advance our labor sector culture."

   Lee, who has repeatedly urged the socialist North to give up its nuclear weapons program and return to an inter-Korean dialog, did not elaborate on his comments describing the North Korean leader as a drag on the South Korean national brand.

   Lee's remarks came amid a prolonged chill in inter-Korean relations. There are also conflicting intelligence reports on the health of the 66-year-old North Korean leader, who allegedly suffered a stroke in the middle of August and underwent surgery.


New Zealand May Provide Heavy Oil to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- New Zealand may replace Japan in supplying heavy fuel oil to North Korea as part of the six-party nuclear disarmament process, a news report said on Oct 30.

   "We're in discussion with the six-party talk members on options to assist with the cost of heavy fuel oil to North Korea under their process. So we're in the discussion at this stage," an unnamed spokesperson of the New Zealand Embassy in Washington said in an interview with the U.S.-based broadcaster Radio Free Asia.

   North Korea was to receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or equivalent energy equipment from its five negotiating partners -- the U.S., China, South Korea, Russia and Japan, in return for disabling its key nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.

   Japan, however, refuses to pay its share of the cost unless Pyongyang fully addresses concerns about Japanese nationals kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s.

   The United States, trying to keep the nuclear disarmament process on track, said on Oct 28 it has been in touch with Australia and other countries to make up for the shortfall of about 200,000 tons of fuel oil.

   The spokesperson said nothing was decided yet with regard to whether New Zealand will take part in the process alone, if it does, or jointly with Australia.


British Envoy in Seoul to Visit Pyongyang Soon

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The top British envoy in Seoul will fly to Pyongyang next week for a routine consultation with his country's embassy there, a South Korean diplomatic source said on Nov. 1.

   The visit by British Ambassador to South Korea Martin Uden comes as speculation continues to mount over the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who is believed to have refrained from official events since mid-August amid rumors that he has recently suffered a stroke.

   Uden's visit to Pyongyang, which will take place via Beijing early next week, according to the source, also comes as the European Union moves to step up its aid to North Korea in an effort to push the socialist state to give up its nuclear weapons.

   Britain, one of the leading foreign investors in North Korea, set up diplomatic ties with the country in 2000. It established its embassy in Pyongyang the following year, and the North opened its embassy in London in 2003.

   "Britain has an embassy and an ambassador in Pyongyang, but they need to consult with the embassy in Seoul if the need arises," the source said. "The scheduled visit will be of such a nature."
The British Embassy in Seoul could not immediately be reached for comment.


S. Korean Presidential Office Denies Hard-line Stance against N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, on Nov. 3 denied any intention to pursue a hard-line policy toward North Korea.

   "The government of President Lee Myung-bak remains unchanged in its stance toward North Korea. Basically, we pursue co-existence and co-prosperity with the North," presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan told reporters, dismissing some media reports that the president is shifting to hard-line hostility against the socialist state.

   "The ultimate goal of the Lee government's North Korea policy is to make North Korea a regular member of international society and enhance the level of freedom and peace enjoyed by the North Korean people."

   Lee was elected president last December on a campaign pledge to denuclearize North Korea and open and elevate the North Korean economy to the level of $3,000 in per capita income. But the inauguration of the conservative Lee in February has led to the suspension of inter-Korean dialogue.

   The presidential spokesman's remark came after a vernacular newspaper quoted President Lee as complaining about North Korea's repeated harsh rhetoric against him during a meeting with his senior security policy advisers on Oct. 18.

   North Korea has consistently denounced the South Korean leader as a "traitor" or "U.S. sycophant" in its official comments since his February inauguration.

   In its Nov. 3 edition, a Seoul newspaper quoted the president as instructing his advisers to take stern counteraction against North Korea for repeatedly insulting him in public. But Lee's spokesman denied the newspaper report as groundless.