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2009/01/15 10:28 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 37 (January 15, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Koreans Hold Rallies Vowing to Fulfill New Year's State Goals

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Mass rallies have been held in North Korea for the 10th day running, spreading from Pyongyang to a remote northeastern province, to pledge to their commitment to the New Year economic drive set up by leader Kim Jong-il.

   North Korea customarily holds a series of mass rallies across the country after rolling out New Year policies through a joint newspaper editorial.

   This year's editorial, issued early this month, reaffirmed Pyongyang's commitment to prioritize the military, rebuild the country's ailing industrial infrastructure and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

   The rallies followed a 100,000-strong mass rally held on Jan. 5 in the North Korean capital with ranking officials such as Premier Kim Yong-il, Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) and Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the SPA Presidium, attending.

   Participants in the rallies pledged their loyalty to Kim's "military-first" policy and to join an all-out campaign to increase production, according to the North's media reports.

   They, in particular, made the pledge also in response to a letter from employees of the Chollima Steel Complex in the western port city of Nampho urging all workers across the country to actively take part in what analysts here call a second Chollima movement.

   The Chollima movement, named after a mythical winged horse, was initiated by North Korean founder Kim Il-sung in 1956 to mobilize North Korean citizens to rebuild the country from the rubble of the Korean War.

   Current leader Kim Jong-il reportedly asked workers of the steel plant to take a leading role in reviving the post-war movement when he visited the facility on Dec. 24.

   The North aims to build a economically powerful nation by 2012 marking the centennial of Kim Il-sung's birth.

   According to the North's state media, rallies were held in Jagang, South Hwanghae, Kangwon and Ryanggang provinces on Jan. 6; South and North Pyongan provinces, North Hwanghae and South Hamgyong provinces on Jan. 7; and North Hamgyong Province the following day.

   Work-harder rallies are now spreading to smaller administrative units such as cities and counties and firms, cooperative farms and social organizations.

   The North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) said on Jan. 9 that mass rallies held in such cities as Songrim, Kimchaek, Eunryul and Hoeryong "were full of workers from all walks of life with a high passion for creating a great innovation or leap that hasn't existed in the history through the Chollima grand march."


N.K. Vows to Reinforce Armed Forces to Reconstruct National Economy

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea's state media said on Jan. 8 the military should increase its role to lay the grounds this year for building an economically powerful nation.

   The North has launched an all-out campaign to "open the gate to a thriving nation" by 2012, the centennial of its late founder Kim Il-sung's birth.

   "We must firmly guarantee the construction of a socialist power in a military manner by reinforcing the mighty force of military-first politics by all means this year," the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) said in a commentary.

   It said a nation's military power is one of the most important factors of measuring its greatness and guarantees its survival and development.

   Stepping up one's military power is especially significant today when "imperialists mercilessly infringe upon and crush other nation's sovereign rights" for their gains, the radio added.

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-il began his public activities for the year at an army unit, his first such move in more than a decade.

   The North renewed its call to prioritize the military in a joint New Year's editorial printed in the nation's three major newspapers early this month.


N. Korea Celebrates Completion of Wonsan Youth Power Station

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea has completed a large-scale hydroelectric power station in the eastern port city of Wonsan after more than six years of construction, state media reported on Jan. 10.

   A ceremony was held at the site that day to celebrate the completion of Wonsan Youth Power Station, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The plant is reportedly capable of generating 60,000 kW of electricity.

   Indicating the importance of the completion, the ceremony was attended by high-ranking officials. They included Premier Kim Yong-il, Pak Nam-gi, department director of the Workers' Party and Kim Kwang-rin, chairman of the State Planning Commission.

   A letter of thanks from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was delivered during the ceremony to those who constructed the plant, according to the KCNA.

   "The completion of the power station helped lay a solid foundation for successfully solving the problem of electricity and drinking water for the citizens of Wonsan and rapidly developing the economy in the province and will remarkably change the landscape of the country," Kim was quoted as saying in the letter.

   "It will instill great strength and courage into all the people of the country now all out in the great advance to bring about a new great revolutionary surge on all fronts of building a powerful nation," he said.

   The news agency earlier reported Kim has inspected the plant in his third public activities of the New Year, according to the news agency. It was not known when he made the visit.


N. Korean Athletes Broken 30 Local Records Last Year: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korean athletes has established 30 new domestic records in such events as weightlifting, field and track, shooting, archery and swimming last year, a report said on Jan. 10.

   Two records were broken in the men's 94-kilogram and in the women's 53-kilogram weightlifting competitions of the Mangyongdae Prize sports meeting both in the clean and jerk, according to a newspaper of a pro-Pyongyang association of Korean residents in Japan.

   Seven new local records were set up in men's and women's 60-meter hurdle events, women's 60-meter, 100-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter dashes and women's triple jump in a national field and track championship competition, Choson Sinbo said.

   The 11th People's Sports Contest produced 18 new records in the fields of shooting, archery, field and track, swimming and weightlifting, the report said.


N. Korea Sets up Watchdog for Overdue Parliamentary Election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea began preparing for its long-overdue parliamentary elections next month by forming an election watchdog, Pyongyang's official news agency said on Jan. 12.

   The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) set up an election committee and named Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, as the committee chair, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a two-sentence statement.

   North Korea typically establishes an election watchdog in the run-up to the vote "as part of its election promotion propaganda," an official at Seoul's Unification Ministry said on customary condition of anonymity.

   "But its chief posts are filled by the assembly members and therefore the system does not function in a democratic way," he said.

   Citizens vote in the direct election, but the list of candidates are drawn up by the Workers' Party which nominates one candidate in each electorate.

   The current 687 representatives were elected in 2003, all with 100 percent approval. Their five-year term de facto expired in August 2008.


N. Korean Leader Tours Factories Following Nuke Message

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il inspected machinery plants as part of his stepped-up economic drive, the North's media said on Jan. 13.

   During his visit to the Kumsong Tractor Plant, Kim expressed his "belief that the workers of the plant would invent and produce more modern farm machines invariably under the uplifted banner of self-reliance and realize the comprehensive mechanization of agriculture as early as possible," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in its English language report.

   Kim recalled the days when workers "produced with empty hands the first tractor in the country in the postwar difficult period," the KCNA said.

   Pyongyang recently restored the postwar Chollima Movement, initially launched by the nation's founder Kim Il-sung in 1956 to mobilize citizens to rebuild the country from the debris of the Korean War.

   The North Korean leader also visited the Taean Heavy Machine Complex, the report said on the same day.

   Amid a global economic downturn and suspension of aid from South Korea, North Korea recently has reinvigorated its slogan of "self-reliance" to rebuild the nation's frail industrial infrastructure and resolve its chronic food shortages.