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2009/05/07 10:52 KST

   *** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea Observes May Day on a Grand Scale

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked this year's May Day on an unusually grand scale with leader Kim Jong-il watching a congratulatory concert by the state choir and thousands of workers attending a state banquet.

   The festival came amid moves by the North to step up its nuclear brinkmanship, quit six-party denuclearisation talks and reinforce its "nuclear deterrent."

   Pyongyang apparently aims to strengthen internal unity and encourage workers to join more aggressively in the national campaign to build an economically powerful country by 2012 by drumming up festivities on labor day.

   North Korea usually marks such festivals on a grand scale once every five or ten years but it is rare for them to do so otherwise.

   Leader Kim Jong-il spent the day watching a performance given by the State Merited Chorus together with workers from the metal industry and those of relevant enterprises, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   On the bank of Pothong River in Pyongyang, there was a fireworks display, titled "We Will Emerge Victorious!," according to the North's news media.

   The North previously had an hour-long fireworks night at a river bank in Pyongyang on April 14 with a surprise attendance by leader Kim Jong-il to mark the 97th birth anniversary of his late father, state founder Kim Il-sung.

   Kim Jong-il did not show up in the latest fireworks night. Ranking officials present in the event included Kim Yong-nam, the titular head of state who concurrently serves as president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Premier Kim Yong-il, Kim Yong-chun, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC) and minister of people's armed forces, two other NDC vice chairmen Ri Yong-mu and O Kuk-ryol.

   Diplomatic representatives from various countries, heads of Pyongyang offices of international organizations and other foreign guests were also invited.

   Besides the fireworks, Pyongyang gave a banquet for select workers from all over the country in celebration of the day.

   "A grand banquet was given here on May Day," the KCNA reported that day. "Present on invitation were 15,000 labour innovators from the Chollima Steel Complex, the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex, the Anju Area Coal Mining Complex, the Jaeryong Mine and the Unryul Mine," it added.

   Speaking at the banquet, Kim Yong-nam emphasized that the unprecedentedly large-scale banquet is an expression of leader Kim Jong-il's big expectation and conviction that the participants would play the vanguard role in bringing about a fresh leap forward in the national campaign to wide open the gate to a thriving nation in 2012, the centenary of birth of Kim Il-sung, without fail, according to the KCNA report.

   Senior officials of the Workers' Party and the government visited factories, enterprises and farms to celebrate the May Day together with workers. Artists affiliated with central art groups performed at parks and public squares in Pyongyang, according to the North's media reports.


Buddha's Birthday Observed in North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Buddhist temples across North Korea held services on May 2 to celebrate Buddha's birthday and pray for the unification of the Korean Peninsula, state media reported.

   Attending were members of the Central Committee of the Buddhist Federation, its local committees, monks and laypeople, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   The KCNA quoted speakers as saying that inter-Korean relations -- which had developed on good terms after the first summit between the leaders of the two Koreas in 2000 -- have now reached the brink of a war, owing to the "sycophancy toward the U.S. and the moves for confrontation with the North" shown by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

   The speakers called on all the Buddhists in the two Koreas and abroad to unite and seek the implementation of agreements signed during the two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007, the report said.

   A joint prayer for the country's reunification carrying the "unanimous desire" of all the Buddhists in the two Koreas was read aloud at the end of each ceremony, it added.


N. Korea Calls for Watertight Quarantine on New Flu

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 3 called for thorough quarantine efforts to prevent an outbreak of type-A influenza as people around the world were found to be infected with the virus.

   "Our country should tighten quarantine efforts to prevent the swine flu (type-A H1N1) from spreading to the border or any other areas," Ro Mun-yong, chief of the information center on medical science, told North Korean state TV. "Everyone should be aware of the flu and aggressively participate in prevention."

   In the interview with the (North) Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station, Ro explained that the flu had led to deaths in Mexico and the United States.

   "Many countries have set up emergency organizations, strengthened quarantine measures and imposed import bans on pork ... to control the disease," Ro was quoted as saying.

   No case of type-A flu infection has so far been reported in North Korea.

   On April 29, North Korea's state media belatedly began reporting on the recent spread of H1N1 flu in the U.S.

   Pyongyang convened an emergency meeting of the state emergency quarantine committee, led by Premier Kim Yong-il, on April 28 to discuss ways to prevent the disease's spread, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said three days later.

   Confirming there was no case of new flu outbreak in North Korea, the officials discussed ways to tighten quarantines at local ports, said Choson Sinbo newspaper, printed in Japan.

   "We have tightened quarantines on overseas travelers, including those from regions hit by the swine influenza, and are trying to call the people's attention to a campaign on the new disease," Hong Sun-gwang, deputy chief the State Hygiene Inspection Institute, under the North's public health ministry, told the newspaper.

   Reconfirming that there are no cases of type-A influenza in the country, the North's official Korean Central News Agency on May 6 said the country is on high alert to prevent the inflow of the highly infectious virus that has been confirmed in South Korea.


North Korea Creates 'China Day'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea recently added "China Day" to the slew of celebrations it is holding this year to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties with its socialist ally, state media reported on May 4.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said North Korean and Chinese students in Pyongyang held a "joint friendly gathering" at Kimilsung University "on the occasion of the China Day."

   The report did not give the exact date of the new holiday. Judging from the timing of the report, however, it appears to be sometime this week.

   During the gathering, the students enjoyed various art performances and held a quiz game as well as a basketball friendly, the KCNA said.

   The two countries plan to hold some 60 events across 10 fields, including politics, journalism, economics, public health, tourism and banking, in celebration of "friendship year," according to a Chinese media interview with Liu Xiaoming, China's Ambassador to Pyongyang, and the official Web site of the Chinese Embassy in North Korea.

   The two countries will also hold a meeting between sister provinces and cities this year, the KCNA reported on May 5.

   The "DPRK-China friendship city meeting" will provide an opportunity to discuss "matters of forging friendly relations between cities and boosting exchanges and cooperation between them in the future," the KCNA said.

   The report, however, did not mention exactly when the meeting will be held or what provinces and cities will be involved.

   The meeting "will be helpful to further consolidating the friendly relations, a precious treasure, provided by the revolutionaries of elder generations from the two countries and will brilliantly adorn the year of friendship," the North Korean report said.


North Korean Leader Inspects Military University

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il inspected a military university, where he underscored the use of visual aids for "practical education," state media said on May 5.

   Kim, 67, has more than doubled his public activities this year after recuperating from a stroke he reportedly suffered last summer. The latest trip was his 60th, compared to 24 field trips he made during the same period last year.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim inspected the University of (North) Korean People's Army Unit 10215 and took a photo with its teaching staff.

   "He stressed that in order to train the students into able commanding officers equipped with rich military knowledge and commanding ability it is necessary to strengthen the practical education and education with the help of visual aids, steadily improve the contents of education and further increase the role of teachers as required by the developing reality," the report said.

   "He underscored the need for the military educational institutions to take the lead in implementing the WPK's (Workers' Party of Korea) line and policies," it said.

   The report did not give the date of Kim's visit, characteristic of North Korean media on the leader's activities. It also did not disclose the location of the military unit.

   Kim was accompanied by party officials and military brass, including his only brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek, department director of the party and a member of the National Defense Commission, the highest military decision-making body.

   Earlier, the KCNA says on May 2 Kim Jong-il watched the North Korean opera "The Flower Girl" together with workers in the field of metal industry and those of relevant enterprises who participated in the events celebrating May Day.


N. Korean Ceremonial Leader Heads for South Africa

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on May 6 that its ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, embarked on a trip to South Africa to attend the inauguration of the country's new president.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency said Kim "left Pyongyang by special plane" and will also visit Zimbabwe, without elaborating.

   South Korea's ruling party leader also flew to the country to attend the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Jacob Zuma set for May 9 in the country's administrative capital, Pretoria.

   Kim, 81, represents North Korea on state visits and summits and receives visiting heads of state as the country's titular head. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, 67, rarely travels abroad.

   Kim's entourage includes Ri Ryong-nam, minister of foreign trade, and Kim Hyong-jun, vice minister of foreign affairs, the report said. North Korea's foreign minister Pak Ui-chun is visiting Latin American countries.

   North Korea established diplomatic relations with South Africa in 1998.