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2008/12/04 10:41 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 32 (December 4, 2008)


N. Korea to Block Entry of S. Korean Newspapers, Magazines

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will block all South Korean publications from entering the country starting Dec. 1, a government source said on Nov. 30.

   In the past, the North permitted 20 newspapers from nine publishers to be brought over the demarcation line on a regular basis to be read by South Korean employees working at the Kaesong Industrial District Management Committee (KIDMAC).

   Ordinary visitors and workers coming to the border city of Kaesong were barred from bringing South Korean publications. If caught, the books, magazines and newspapers were confiscated, but the person was allowed through.

   "The decision can be seen as extending the ban that had been in place for ordinary people to KIDMAC employees," he said. The action goes into effect on Dec. 1.

   The source, who declined to be identified, said the North announced its plans via an inter-Korean telephone line earlier in the day and stressed that anyone in possession of such materials will be sent back.

   The North also said that cars carrying South Korean publications will not be allowed to cross the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

   In addition, Pyongyang notified Seoul that individuals who "disrupt" border inspections will be turned back, according to the official. It also made clear that no rescheduling of border crossings will be allowed unless the person is gravely ill or there is a family emergency.

   Pyongyang said that starting on Dec. 1 it will limit overland traffic between South Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Complex just north of the DMZ. A total of 88 companies operate at the complex, employing nearly 35,000 North Korean workers.

   In late October, North Korean authorities began censoring all newspapers by clipping individual stories which they believed were inappropriate.


Left-wing Group Leaders Charged for Violating Security Law

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean prosecutors on Dec. 2 indicted five leading members of a left-wing civic group on charges of spreading North Korean propaganda in the South while a trial is ongoing for several others accused of the same crime.

   The five from the Solidarity for Practice of the South-North Joint Declaration were the second batch of the group's leaders to be put to trial for alleged violation of the National Security Law. Four others were indicted in October.

   Their indictments under the anti-communist security law were the first such kind in a decade.

   The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office said members of the latest group, whose names were withheld to not affect the upcoming trial, have been accused of producing and disseminating documents praising North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-il. One of them was suspected of campaigning to support North Korea's nuclear weapon test in 2006.

   The security law, which punishes activity benefiting enemy states, namely North Korea, is highly controversial with its contradictory interpretation of freedom of expression. Liberals and civic groups as well as Amnesty International have called on Seoul to abolish the law, while conservatives and the Lee Myung-bak government hold it as a legal tool against communist propaganda.

   The Seoul-based organization was established in 2000 to commemorate the first-ever inter-Korean summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the North Korean leader earlier that year. Prosecutors charge it has openly praised the North Korean regime and that some of its members pledged allegiance to the North Korean leader.

   The organization denied the accusations and warned it will file a defamation suit against the prosecution.


Obama Urged to Prioritize N. Korea, Iran Nuke Issue

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Congress recommended on Dec. 2 that the incoming Barack Obama administration give priority to stopping the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, amid fears they may jeopardize the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

   "As a top priority, the next administration must stop the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs," a congressional research report said. "In the case of North Korea, this requires the complete abandonment and dismantlement of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs."

   The report, written by a bipartisan team led by former Sen. Bob Graham (D-Florida), recommended that the Obama government resolve the issue through "direct diplomatic engagement," but added that such engagement "must be backed by the credible threat of direct action in the event that diplomacy fails."

   Titled, "World at Risk: The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism," the report comes amid reports that the Obama administration will likely sideline the North Korean nuclear issue upon inauguration on Jan. 20 so it can focus on the ongoing economic crisis.

   Despite multilateral nuclear negotiations involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, the report said: "It remains uncertain whether Pyongyang will ultimately carry out its commitment to eliminate its nuclear weapons and associated enrichment and reprocessing capabilities."


S. Korea, U.S., Japan to Seek Sampling from N. Korean Nuke Facilities

TOKYO (Yonhap) -- South Korea, Japan and the United States on Dec. 3 reaffirmed their decision to push for a deal with North Korea that will allow inspectors to take samples from its nuclear sites.

   "We agreed that it is necessary to take samples to verify North Korea's declaration of its nuclear program," South Korea's top negotiator Kim Sook told reporters in Tokyo after meeting with his American and Japanese counterparts. "We will make efforts to put it in writing during the forthcoming six-party talks (on the North Korean nuclear program)."
The tripartite meeting marked the start of full-scale diplomatic contacts among the related parties ahead of the resumption of the six-way talks, which have tentatively been slated for next week. The other members, including North Korea, are China and Russia.

   Washington's chief negotiator Christopher Hill plans to hold talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Kye-gwan in Singapore on Dec. 4 to resolve the dispute over the sampling, which Pyongyang has balked at.