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2009/04/09 10:55 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

Pyongyang Grand Theater Completes Remodeling

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has completed the remodeling of a landmark art theater in Pyongyang, the country's state media reported on April 3.

   A ceremony to mark the completion was held at the theater that day, almost a year after the remodeling work began last June, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   "The Pyongyang Grand Theater was renovated into a monumental edifice in the era of Songun (military-first) on the principle of historicism to cater to the modern aesthetic taste and meet the architectural requirements," the KCNA said.

   Opened in 1960, the theater was a venue for important political events like the 4th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea and for performances of literary and art works created in the socialist country.

   It was remodeled into a 1,300-seat theater equipped with "all facilities for art creation, performing activities and audiences ranging from remote controlled stage, ultra-modern sound and lighting equipment, various training and makeup rooms to catering facilities," the report said.

   Speaking during the April 3 ceremony, Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, called on the creators, artistes and employees of the Phibada Opera Troupe and the Pyongyang Grand Theater "to produce famous works representing the spirit of the stirring era and bring about a great upswing in the creation of art works and performing activities," the KCNA said.

   Pyongyang officials also present at the ceremony included Choe Thae-bok and Kim Ki-nam, secretaries of the North's Workers' Party Central Committee, and Culture Minister Kang Nung-su.

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has recently visited the renovated theater, the same news agency said two days later without giving the date of the visit as usual.

   Content with the renewed facility, Kim expressed thanks to the builders, all in the military, who took part in the remodeling work after several hours touring the site, the report said.


N. Korea Challenges S. Korea's 1-0 Win in World Cup Qualifier

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 5 claimed South Korea purposely poisoned three of its football players and bought referees to win a crucial World Cup qualifying match between the two Koreas.

   The North demanded South Korea instantly make an apology for the food poisoning and that the world football governing body FIFA review the game and take adequate measures against Seoul.

   South Korea, however, dismissed the accusation as "a groundless and politically motivated."

   The North's national football association argued in a statement issued by its spokesman that three of North Korea's key players were poisoned by food offered by South Korea's football body, the Korea Football Association (KFA), a day before the March 31 match.

   Two goalkeepers and a striker named Jong Tae-se suffered from vomiting, diarrhea, and headache "undoubtedly" due to the intentional provision of adulterated foodstuff, said the statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   The North also argued that Jong's header had crossed the goal line before South Korea's goalkeeper punched it out, contradicting a judgment by referees.

   Referees again made a partial judgement three minutes before the game's close by penalizing the North Korean team for a foul committed by a South Korean player, the statement claimed.

   "We cannot help seeing the partial judgement as a behind-the-scene scheme by South Korea's impure forces and a deliberate and nasty behavior by those bribed," it said.

   On the following day, the South's KFA downplayed the North's accusation and said it feels no need to respond to the statement.

   "The statement sets a high political tone, not about the sport itself. There's no need to respond to it," said Kim Joo-sung, head of the KFA's international affairs department.

   "If an accident happens during training or transit, and it affects the match, the host country should take responsibility for the accident," said Kim. "But matters related to hotels or the food are the responsibility of the visiting team."

   He said of the disputed goal, "North Korea can lodge an objection with FIFA and wait for a decision."


N.K. Mobile Phone Network Signs Up 20,000 Subscribers: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North's third-generation mobile phone network launched in December has already signed up some 20,000 subscribers, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan reported on April 6.

   The network is now accessible throughout Pyongyang and on a highway between the capital and Hyangsan, North Pyongan Province, Choson Sinbo said.

   CHEO Technology, operator of the Koryo Link network, provides voice call and Short Message Service (SMS), it added.

   CHEO is a joint venture between the Egyptian telecom giant Orascom Telecom and the North's state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation.

   Yoon Gwang-chun, a 40-year-old worker with CHEO, was quoted as telling the daily that foreigners as well as North Korean residents can subscribe.

   He said the company aims to expand the service area to capitals of respective provinces, major local cities, highways and railways and their adjacent areas within the year.

   By 2012, the target year set by North Korea for building an economically powerful country, the company hopes to build a network that connects the entire North Korean population, Yoon said.

   People can subscribe to the service by filling out forms at a "service center" together with the cost of buying a handset plus 50 euros (US$65.9) to register, according to the newspaper.

   The price of a handset ranges from 110 to 240 euros, said the newspaper of Chongryon, the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

   There was only one "service center" at the International Communications Center in Pyongyang at the time of the network's launch, it said. "To meet the growing demand," however, North Korea added another, also in Pyongyang, according to the report.

   The company plans to cut down the registration fee and increase the boundary of the service to include a video phone, data transmission and other additional functions, Yoon was quoted as saying.

   North Korea is already capable of providing services to allow transmission of video and photo images, he added.


Kim Jong-il Visits Foodstuff Processing Factory

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has inspected a special products factory operated by the military in Pyongyang, state media reported on April 7, two days after he watched the launch of a long-range rocket at a satellite control tower in the capital city.

   The Samilpho Special Products Factory standing on the bank of Pyongyang's Taedong River is a general foodstuff processing base which produces more than 350 products, including noodles, rice-cakes, cooking oil, confectionery and tea, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   After touring production lines of the factory, Kim rated it as a "profitable factory as it produces a lot of unique foodstuffs" entirely from "locally available raw materials," the news report said.

   He called on the country's provinces to build similar factories to contribute to improving people's living standard, it added.

   Kim was accompanied by (North) Korean People's Army Generals Hyon Chol-hae, Ri Myong-su, Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the North's Workers' Party (WPK), department directors of the WPK Jang Song-thaek, Choe Ik-gyu and Kim Yang-gon.

   The KCNA also said on April 4 that Kim Jong-il inspected the Pyongyang Grand Theater, which reopened recently after finishing 10 months of remodeling work. The report did not give the date of the visit.


Kim Bong-chol Named as New Minister of Commerce

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has named Kim Bong-chol as its new minister of commerce, Yonhap News Agency learned on April 8.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported the previous day Kim attended the closing ceremony of an annual food festival held in Pyongyang in his capacity as the commerce minister.

   Kim became a deputy minister of commerce in October 1998 and later served as director general of the External Service Bureau, a Cabinet office.

   He was elected as a deputy to the 12th-term Supreme People's Assembly last month.

   It remains unclear if Ri Yong-son, who had served as a commerce minister since 1998, was Kim's direct predecessor. Ri has not been seen in public since October 2007.


100,000 Pyongyang Citizens Rally to Hail Rocket Launch

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- About 100,000 Pyongyang citizens rallied at Kimilsung Square on April 8 to celebrate the "successful" launch of a rocket that could be used for a long-range missile.

   North Korea claims it successfully sent its communications satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 into orbit three days earlier, but neighboring countries say the rocket fizzled into the Pacific Ocean.

   The U.S., Japan and South Korea are pushing to report the case to the U.N. Security Council to penalize the North, criticizing the launch as a disguised test of a long-range missile.

   Speaking in the rally, Choe Thae-bok, secretary of the Workers' Party, said the launch was "an auspicious occasion in the history of the nation" and a "victory over the imperialists and reactionaries who have been frantically making efforts to isolate and stifle the republic (North Korea)," according to the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang.

   "The satellite launch meant a gun salute heralding the advent of the era of a thriving nation at a time when all people are out in the general advance to open the gate to a great, prosperous and powerful socialist nation in 2012, the centenary of birth of (late) President Kim Il-sung," Choe was quoted by the Korean Central News Agency as saying.

   He called the launch a "shining fruition" of Kim Jong-il's leadership and said it laid "a historic milestone in the development of the nation's science and technology."

   Participants in the rally adopted a resolution vowing to complete the national campaign to reconstruct the economy by 2012.

   On the same day in Pyongyang, a national meeting was held to celebrate the 16th year of Kim's National Defense Commission (NDC) chairmanship, according to state media.

   In his speech to the meeting, Kim Yong-chun, vice chairman of the NDC and minister of the People's Armed Forces, threatened of "stern, merciless return fire" should the U.S. and South Korea "dare to" attack the North despite its repeated warnings.

   The "satellite" launch demonstrated once again to the world North Korea's "mighty military power," Kim said.

   Also attending the meeting were Kim Yong-nam, the North's ceremonial head of state who serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the SPA, Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the SPA Presidium, Ri Yong-mu, an NDC vice chairman, and Kim Il-chol, first-vice minister of the People's Armed Forces.