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2008/12/25 13:33 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 35 (December 25, 2008)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N.K.'s Military Official Says South-North Relations in 'Serious' State

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean military official said on Dec. 18 that the chill in inter-Korean relations is now "serious" and urged Seoul to withdraw its hard-line policy toward Pyongyang so as not to exacerbate the situation, a Seoul spokesman said.

   Lt. Gen. Kim Yong-chol, head of the policy planning office of the North's National Defense Commission, delivered the latest message from Pyongyang as he inspected the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong in a rare trip.

   "North-South relations are frozen at this moment. It's a serious situation," the North Korean official was quoted by the Unification Ministry spokesman, Kim Ho-nyoun, as telling South Korean businesspeople in Kaesong.

   North Korea evicted hundreds of South Koreans at the Kaesong complex and cut border traffic as of Dec. 1, following months of strained relations. It also suspended South Korean tours to its mountain resort.

   The two-day inspection sparked speculation that Pyongyang may be considering further sanctions on Kaesong. The military official made a similar survey of Kaesong on Nov. 6, about a week before Pyongyang announced the Dec. 1 sanction.

   The North warned it may further curtail business exchanges should Seoul continue its stance. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has adopted a tougher policy toward the North than his liberal predecessors, demanding concrete denuclearization by Pyongyang and more reciprocity for Seoul's aid.

   "If there's no change of attitude by the South, current measures will not be lifted," the North Korean official said.

   Seoul is trying to quell speculation on fresh sanctions. The ministry spokesman said that during his two-day inspection, the military official mostly talked about South Korean businesses, such as output and wages for North Korean employees in Kaesong.

   The Kaesong industrial complex opened in 2004, joining South Korean capital and technology with North Korean labor to produce shoes, clothes, kitchenware and watches. There are currently 88 South Korean companies employing around 36,000 North Koreans in Kaesong. A North Korean worker is paid US$60-$80 a month on average.

   Experts generally agree North Korea will not go to the extreme of shutting down the joint complex, which would deter foreign investors and dramatically heighten tension in the border region.


North Korea Says Bush Deserves Shoes Humiliation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Dec. 19 that U.S. President George W. Bush deserved the shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist during his recent trip to Baghdad, calling him "a cockerel soaked in the rain."

  "The head of the United States who rammed through the 'anti-terror war' deserves humiliation," Minju Joson, the North's cabinet newspaper, said in an article carried by the North's government website, Uriminzokkiri.

   "Fortunately, he saw the shoes coming and swiftly ducked. Otherwise, he would have had the shoe mark printed on his face, to his shame," it said.

   The journalist, identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi reporter for an Egypt-based television station, threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference Sunday evening. Bush brushed off the incident, joking the shoes were size 10.

   Mocking Bush's quip, Pyongyang said, "The way he joked so as not to look embarrassed was marvelously reminiscent of a cockerel soaked in the rain."

 The comment is a reference to a North Korean proverb describing a person of high status who suddenly falls to shame.

   "It was an explosion of rage by the Iraqi people that accumulated over years against the war fanatics who massacred more than 100,000 innocent Iraqi people by manipulating accusations about weapons of mass destruction that don't exist and waging a war," it said.


N. Korea Blasts Seoul's Conservatives Over Terror List Comment

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean news magazine attacked South Korean conservatives on Dec. 20 for demanding that the North be put back on a U.S. terrorism blacklist, calling it an ill attempt to squeeze the country to death.

   The United States removed North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in October in exchange for Pyongyang's nuclear declaration, which it delivered in June.

   But conservative lawmakers in both South Korea and the U.S. have recently said that North Korea should be put back on the list because it has since refused to allow measures to verify the declaration.

   The weekly Tongil Sinbo said the removal was a "legitimate" measure taken as part of a political reward promised to the North under a six-party deal signed last year.

   In its commentary, the magazine added that the talks held in Beijing early this month were "productive."
The latest round of six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization held in the Chinese capital were seen by many outside observers as a failure.

   The magazine argued that Seoul's conservatives ultimately aim to disband the talks and aggravate ties been Pyongyang and Washington.

   The magazine warned that South Korea would be edged out of the six-party negotiations -- which also involve the U.S., China, Japan, Russia and North Korea -- if its conservatives keep making such arguments.


N. Korea Snubs S. Korea's Dialogue Offer as 'Hypocritical'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Dec. 22 that South Korea's offers of inter-Korean dialogue are "hypocritical," and that it will not lend an ear unless Seoul first reverses its tough policy toward Pyongyang.

   "Hypocritical is the 'dialogue' much publicized by those who seek confrontation with daggers hidden behind their belts. No one would lend an ear" to such offers, Rodong Sinmun, published by the North's Workers' Party, said in a commentary.

   The accusation was the latest from North Korea, which blames the South for the strain in recent inter-Korean relations. Cross-border ties have dramatically soured during the first year of the conservative Lee Myung-bak government, which suspended food aid to Pyongyang and urged the North to come clean on its nuclear ambitions and about 1,000 South Koreans supposedly held in the communist country if it wants Seoul's assistance.

   North Korea retaliated by evicting hundreds of South Koreans at the joint industrial complex in its border town of Kaesong as of Dec 1. It also curtailed border traffic and halted South Korean tours to its mountain resort.

   Lee has repeatedly stressed that his government is willing to engage in dialogue. In his latest gesture to Pyongyang early this month, he said, "The South and the North should meet and talk ... Inter-Korean relations should not be used politically, and I have no intention of doing so," he said.

   The North dismissed the offer as a rhetoric.

   "The spate of nonsensical talk about 'dialogue' made by the group is nothing but a revelation of its criminal intention to mislead public opinion at home and abroad and misuse inter-Korean dialogue for achieving their sinister political aim," the newspaper said.

   Pyongyang insists that to thaw the frozen ties, the Seoul government should reverse its hard-line policy toward the North and implement large-scale economic aid projects promised by Lee's liberal predecessors, Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung.

   Last week, the North's weekly, the Tongil Sinbo, echoed the criticism.

   "If the South Korean authorities have the slightest notion of starting dialogue, they should make up their minds to withdraw the confrontational policy ... Without that, their offer of dialogue is nothing but wordplay," it said.


N. Korea Accuses South's Unification Minister of Destroying Ties

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea hurled biting criticism on Dec. 23 at South Korea's unification minister visiting China, calling him a "lunatic" who is destroying inter-Korean relations with confrontational policies.

   Kim Ha-joong, Seoul's chief policymaker on inter-Korean affairs, is now in Beijing meeting with senior Chinese officials to discuss North Korean issues.

   "The hooligans of Lee Myung-bak are with no exception confrontational fanatics with their bones filled up with hostility against their brethren. 'Unification Minister' Kim Ha-joong is their leader," Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper run by the North's Workers' Party, said in a commentary.

   The accusation was the latest from the North, which has recently intensified anti-Seoul criticism. The North has vowed not to reopen inter-Korean dialogue unless Seoul revamps its hardline stance.

   South Korean President Lee Myung-bak suspended food aid to Pyongyang this year, demanding the North abandon its nuclear programs and return South Koreans allegedly being detained in the North.

   North Korea retaliated by evicting hundreds of South Koreans from a joint industrial complex in its border town of Kaesong on Dec. 1. It also curtailed border traffic and halted South Korean tours to a popular mountain resort.

   "The surroundings of the traitor Lee Myung-bak are crowded with lunatics mad for blood and extreme hostility toward their own brethren," the newspaper said.

   The report criticized Kim for not attending the first anniversary ceremony of the 2007 inter-Korean summit in early October and for not actively stopping North Korean defectors in South Korea from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.

   "The North is passing the responsibility to us, but the North has taken a series of actions that have strained inter-Korean relations," Kim Ho-nyoun, spokesman for the Unification Ministry, told reporters.

   The minister met with Dai Bingguo, China's state councilor, and Chinese vice foreign minister and chief envoy to the six-party nuclear disarmament talks, Wu Dawei, and planned to meet other top officials including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before returning Seoul on Wednesday. He served as Seoul's envoy to Beijing for more than six years before taking the Cabinet post with the Lee government.