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2009/01/22 10:06 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 38 (January 22, 2009)

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Korean Leader Visits Pyongyang Silk, Gum factories

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has visited a silk yarn and gum factory in Pyongyang to urge workers to enhance production and quality, the North's state-run media reported on Jan. 15.

   The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) monitored in Seoul said Kim visited the silk yarn factory and after praising workers called for redoubled effort to raise production to world-class levels. He also said more should be done to modernize production facilities and research on silkworms to increase output.

   The report added that the reclusive leader visited a gum factory in the capital city and talked to workers there along with high ranking officials from the Workers' Party of (North) Korea.

   Two days later, the KCNA said the North Korean leader inspected a sub-unit under (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 2752 honored with the title of O Jung-hup-led Seventh Regiment and offered field guidance to workers at the Mt. Ryongak Recreation Ground in Pyongyang.

   The KCNA did not disclose the date of Kim's visits. He was accompanied by two full generals -- Ri Myong-su and Hyon Chol-hae -- along with other officials, the KCNA said.


N. Korea, China Exchange New Year Embassy Receptions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has held a New Year reception for Chinese diplomats in Pyongyang, the North's official news agency said, amid a flurry of diplomatic exchanges between the allies marking the 60th anniversary of relations.

   The international affairs department of the central committee of the North's Workers' Party said it "arranged a reception in honor of the staff members of the Chinese embassy in Pyongyang at Koryo Hotel on the occasion of the New Year," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Jan. 15.

   Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang Liu Xiaoming attended the event, while North Korea's Pak Kyong-son and Kim Thae-jong, vice department directors of the Workers' Party Central Committee, hosted the reception, it said.

   In separate reports, the KCNA said China's Foreign Ministry invited North Korean diplomats in China to a friendly gathering on Jan. 14, following a Jan. 13 banquet hosted by the North Korean embassy in Beijing.

   "In the meaningful year of 2009, which marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, exchanges and cooperation in each sector will be deepened and elevated to a greater level in accordance with the will of the two countries' great leaders to open a new chapter in the history of friendship between Korea and China," North Korean ambassador to Beijing Choe Jin-su was quoted by KCNA as saying at the Jan. 13 event.

   Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged closer ties between Pyongyang and Beijing in New Year's messages exchanged on Jan. 1.

   China's Foreign Ministry sent a delegation to Pyongyang for a four-day visit that ended on Jan. 12.


N. Korea Considers Food Most Pressing Problem

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea reiterated on Jan. 15 that resolving the nation's chronic food shortage is the most pressing task in rebuilding its moribund economy.

   The North recently revived a postwar industrial campaign to mobilize its citizens known as the Chollima Movement. Named after a mythical winged horse, the campaign was first launched in 1956 following then leader Kim Il-sung's visit to a steel complex in the western port city of Nampho. Its chief aim was to rebuild the country from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War.

   Current leader Kim Jong-il, son of the late Kim Il-sung, visited the same facility on Dec. 24 last year and urged workers to step-up efforts towards constructing a thriving nation by 2012. The year will mark the centennial of the birth of the senior Kim, who died in 1994.

   "There is no more pressing or important task than resolving the people's food problem at this stage," the North's state-run Korean Central Broadcasting Station said.

   The radio broadcast called for citizens to help the nation strengthen its "self-reliance" and alleviate the food shortage by increasing crop production this year. It also said the food crisis was a global issues and was not only affecting North Korea.

   "Today, there is no country willing to provide food and nowhere to get food because of the worldwide food crisis," it said. "We must focus all our energy on attaining this year's goal of crop production with an extraordinary resolution to settle the food problem by ourselves at any cost."

   North Korea has heavily depended on foreign handouts to help feed its 23 million population since famine killed around 2 million in the 1990s.

   The U.N. World Food Program estimated last December that North Korea urgently requires US$346 million worth of food to help some 5.6 million North Koreans -- nearly a quarter of the country's population -- get through the New Year, despite a relatively good crop last year.


N. Korea Mobilizes University Students for Economic Reconstruction

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- University students are vigorously helping out at farms and factories to increase production, Pyongyang's media said on Jan. 16, as a global economic downturn casts a shadow on the North's goal of self-sustainability.

   "Students of the DPRK (North Korea) are doing their bit in seething realities during the vacation in response to the call of the joint New Year editorial," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The report said students from 10 universities in Pyongyang, including the nation's top Kimilsung University and the Kimchaek University of Technology, helped workers at the Pyongyang Thermal Power Complex, the nation's first thermal energy plant.

   Some of the students worked at farm cooperatives, the report said.

   "They carried a vast amount of manure to fields together with peasants," it said, pointing out that the joint editorial calls for meeting this year's grain production target "with the extraordinary determination to solve the food problem by the (North) Korean people's efforts in any circumstances to cope with the world-wide food crisis."

   North Korea vowed to "solve food problems by our own efforts" and rebuild the nation's decrepit industry infrastructure in its New Year joint editorial.

   Weighed down by the tanking global economy, however, the North's economy appears headed for minus growth this year, analysts say.