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2009/01/15 10:29 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 37 (January 15, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

N. Korea Lashes Out at Capitalist Culture Amid Internal Woes

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea vowed to step up its drive to repel the influx of capitalist culture, a call that appeared to be aimed at deflecting blame for economic woes and counteracting anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from South Korea.

   "As is manifested by the cases of Eastern Europe countries that were on their way to socialism, one becomes unable to safeguard the society if it fails to shut off the dissemination of bourgeois ideology and culture by reactionary imperialists," Rodong Sinmun, the publication of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said on Jan. 9 in a commentary carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   With its economy teetering and foreign culture seeping in through cracks in the border, North Korea is bracing for growing challenges to its solipsistic regime, analysts say. South Korean movies, TV dramas and music are increasingly common there, as merchants smuggle in DVDs and CDs through China, they say.

   In one such sign, a North Korean sportscaster on Jan. 4 highly lauded Manchester United winger Park Ji-sung of South Korea as "a player who has the ability of two." During a broadcast of the British team's match with Ecuador's Liga de Quito, he said Park "has good mobility and high fighting energy" as a "key player of the South Korean team."

   Cho Jeong-ah, a researcher with Korea Institute for National Unification, a state-run think tank in Seoul, says a growing number of North Koreans have accepted South Korean pop culture as the economic woes from the mid-1990s loosened the regime's control over them.

   "The most notable trend is their anti-socialist behavior spreading across the country through official and unofficial markets," Cho says.

   Rodong Sinmun said, "Countries and people who aim for independent growth and social progress should look squarely into the danger and aftermaths of the schemes to disseminate bourgeois ideology and culture and should aggressively prevent them."


N. Korea Bashes S. Korean President over New Year Message

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Jan. 11 denounced South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for what it claimed to be Seoul's continued attempt to incite confrontation between the divided Koreas.

   The North's criticism of Lee, the first of its kind this year, came after the South Korean president said his government is fully prepared to talk with the socialist country.

   "The government will work calmly and flexibly to resolve the current stalemate in inter-Korean relations," Lee said in his New Year's national address on Jan. 2.

   He also urged Pyongyang to abandon what he called its "outdated practice" of trying to create tension between conservative and liberal factions of South Korea, and instead become more cooperative.

   Tongil Shinbo, Pyongyang's weekly magazine that is widely viewed as the country's overseas propaganda outlet, claimed Lee was only trying to pass the buck, according to the North's Internet-based news outlet, Uriminzokkiri, a Korean phrase meaning "only by Koreans ourselves."

   Lee's remarks, the magazine claimed, "revealed an attempt to pass off the responsibility for the worsened North-South relationship and continue pursuing an offensive anti-DPRK (North Korea) policy this year."

   The magazine also claimed it is South Korea that needs to change or give up its old habits.

   "A change must come from South Korea by sweeping out the entire group of traitors," it said.

   Pyongyang has virtually cut off all official dialogue with Seoul since the Lee Myung-bak administration was inaugurated in early 2008. The two Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


N. Korea Denounces Japanese Prime Minister's Visit to Seoul

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Jan. 11 warned that the ongoing South Korean visit by Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso would further ruin inter-Korean relations by strengthening "collusion" between anti-communist conservative forces of the two countries.

   Aso arrived in Seoul on Jan. 11 for a two-day visit, which includes a summit with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the next day.

   "Aso's visit to South Korea will further cement cooperation between anti-communist forces in the two countries, resulting in a deterioration of the inter-Korean relations," Rodong Sinmun, the publication of the North's Korean Workers Party, said in an article.

   "The Lee Myung-bak government is attempting to further escalate its policy of confrontation against the DPRK through its cooperation with Japan, in spite of bilateral disputes over Dokdo and distorted Japanese history textbooks," said the article carried by Uriminzokkiri, a pro-North Korean website. The DPRK, short for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is the official name of North Korea.

   The North Korean paper then urged Lee to sternly deal with an attempt by "reactionary Japanese forces" to infringe on the Korean sovereign rights and cancel a previous agreement to resume a South Korea-Japan shuttle diplomacy.


N. Korea Criticizes U.S. Air Training as 'Hostile'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea denounced the United States on Jan. 12 for raising military threats through an ongoing U.S. air drill across South Korea.

   U.S. Air Forces Korea stages the quarterly drill this week. The regular training involves more than 8,500 U.S. troops, mostly airmen, according to a report on Jan. 11 by U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

   The paper quoted 1st Lt. Malinda C. Singleton, spokesman for Osan base's 51st Fighter Wing, as saying, "Our primary goal obviously is to make sure we're 'Ready to fight tonight' and win against a possible North Korean attack."

   The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) denounced the air training as a prelude to war.

   "The U.S. has made our republic its primary target in carrying out preemptive strikes," the KCNA said, adding that "two thirds of the U.S. Air Force's strength is concentrated in and around the Korean Peninsula."

   The report laid out in detail a list of military jets and vessels that it claims have been freshly deployed by the U.S. Department of Defense to the Asia-Pacific region this new year.

   The Pentagon dispatched three of the newest F-22 fighter jet models to bases in South Korea, Guam and Japan's Okinawa this year in addition to positioning an unmanned aerial reconnaissance system, Global Hawk, in its Guam air base, the KCNA said.

   "The U.S. military enhancement maneuver on the Korean Peninsula starkly contradicts the U.S. administration's so-called 'official position' that says it has no intention to invade our republic. This testifies that the U.S. hostile policy against our republic firmly continues behind the curtain of dialogue," the KCNA said.

   The report did not directly mention the latest U.S. air drill, but Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun noted, "It's fair to say the criticism came in relation to the training."


N. Korea Releases Japanese Drug Suspect Held for Five Years

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Jan. 13 released a Japanese drug smuggling suspect after five years in captivity in consideration of his health condition, Pyongyang's news agency said.

   Yoshiaki Sawada, a former department director of Enterprise Co., Ltd, of Japan who was arrested in North Korea in October 2003, was sent home "thanks to a humanitarian measure," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   Amid its diplomatic drive to start afresh with the new U.S. administration, North Korea appeared to be signaling that it does not want to further fray its already tense relations with Japan, analysts said. Pyongyang took Sawada's "wish to go back home and health condition and so on into consideration," KCNA said.

   Shortly after the man's arrest, North Korea had said he tried to lure North Koreans into buying drugs in a third country and ship the drugs to Japan on a North Korean ferry running between North Korea's western Wonsan port and Japan's eastern Nigata port.

   Japan's news media suggested Sawada was a member of a major Japanese Yakuza gang.

   Tokyo dispatched a foreign ministry delegation to Pyongyang in January 2004, but talks for Sawada's release broke down.

   KCNA did not elaborate on details of Sawada's crime and who was behind it, except to say the investigation "clearly proved the truth behind a despicable plot hatched by a Japanese plot-breeding organization."

   Sawada "frankly admitted his crime," and Pyongyang investigators "treated him in a humanitarian manner," KCNA said.