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2009/07/02 10:42 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 61 (July 2, 2009)

  
*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Korea Vows 'Do-or-die' Labor Campaign to Revive Economy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on June 25 vowed a do-or-die labor campaign to build a strong, prosperous nation by 2012 under the baton of leader Kim Jong-il, amid growing outside skepticism about the North's economic plans.

   North Korea has been dependent on international food aid, mainly from South Korea and China, to feed its 24 million people. But the conservative Seoul government cut off its decade-long rice and fertilizer aid to the North last year, which also faces new U.N. sanctions over its recent nuclear test.

   State media said Kim has visited about 100 places over the past six months since Dec. 24, when he revived an aged labor movement with a trip to a steel factory. The so-called Chollima movement was launched in 1958 by his father and North Korean founder Kim Il-sung to rebuild the country out of the rubble of the Korean War and continued through the early 1970s.

   "The forced march of Great Comrade Kim Jong-il ... is a great journey (showing) his endless devotion to the nation, the revolution and the people," the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station, a state-run radio, said, calling the labor campaign an "all-out do-or-die battle of the entire people."

   North Korea seeks to build a "strong, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012, the centenary of Kim Il-sung's birth and when Kim Jong-il turns 70. Some analysts in Seoul speculate the North Korean leader may plan to officially declare his successor in that target year, amid reports that his third and youngest son, Jong-un, is being groomed for the position.

   Adding to the labor campaign, North Korea has set a span of 150 days -- from late April to September -- to further labor productivity. State media regularly report how workers in machinery factories, coal mines and farms are outpacing their production plan under the so-called "150-day battle."

   "In the flames of the all-out battle, the movement of socialist competition is gearing up with vigor and energy to achieve the production goals commissioned to each unit by all means," Radio Pyongyang said.

  
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Former Party Director Ri Kwang-ho Dies

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Ri Kwang-ho, who had drawn much attention as the youngest high-level bureaucrat in the Kim Jong-il era, died at the age of 50 on June 26, state media said.

   "Ri, former director of the Department of Science and Education of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) and deputy to the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), died of hepatoma on June 26," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the following day, citing a state obituary.

   North Korean leader Kim Jong-il sent a wreath to the bier of the late Ri, expressing his "deep condolence" over the death, the KCNA said in a separate report released the same day.

   Ri is one of the young high-ranking bureaucrats representing the Kim Jong-il regime. He had served as vice president of the State Academy of Sciences in his early 30s and became the president of the organization in charge of the nation's science and technology at the age of 38 in 1997.

   He was promoted to be a director of the WPK's Science and Education Department at age 45 in 2004, which made him the youngest among the group of WPK department heads, mostly in their 60s and 70s.

   He is said to have led "educational reform," allowing elementary school students to learn foreign languages and computer skills from the third grade, valuing creativity over learning by rote and strengthening practical education.

   He accompanied leader Kim Jong-il twice when he visited Russia in 2001 as president of the State Academy of Sciences and when he visited China in 2006 as the party director.

   He has been elected deputy to the SPA for the three consecutive terms since 1998.

   The official, however, disappeared from public eyes since he visited China leading a WPK delegation on Feb. 24-28. Seen from the KCNA report that called him a "former director," he is presumed to have stepped down from the post for hospital treatment after the latest trip to China.

   The obituary issued jointly by the WPK Central Committee and the SPA Presidium commented the late official "dedicated all his wisdom and energy to developing the country's science and technology."

  
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N. Korea Claims Fundamental Difference from East European Socialism

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea is thriving despite harsh conditions because its own unique brand of socialism fundamentally differs from that of the Eastern European countries which collapsed in the 1990s, a North Korean legal scholar claimed on June 29.

   Jang Chun-sik, chief of a law institute at the North's Academy of Social Sciences, made the claim in an interview with Radio Pyongyang monitored in Seoul.

   The difference comes from the North's ruling ideology of "Juche (Self-reliance)," Jang said. "Eastern European countries had copied other's systems with the Soviet Maxism-Leninism as the ruling ideology," he said.

   The two sides also walked different paths in constructing and completing socialism, the scholar said. "Unlike the Eastern European socialism that was built with the help and method of others, the North Korean-style socialism was built to suit Korea's reality and with its own force," he said.

   He identified poor ideological doctrination of the region's people as another key factor behind the Eastern European bloc's collapse.

   But North Korea succeeded in building "the most advanced and solid" socialism based on the one-minded unity of the Suryong (Leader), communist party and the mass, he claimed.

  
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Kim Jong-il Calls Science 'Power Engine' for N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said science and technology are the powerful engine driving the construction of a strong nation during his latest trip to a semiconductor factory and a science academy, state media reported on July 1.

   Kim gave "field guidance" to the Hamhung Semiconductor Materials Factory and the Hamhung Branch of the State Academy of Sciences, both in Hamhung in the northern province of North Hamgyong, said the reports without giving a date for the visit.

   Kim expressed "great satisfaction over the fact that they laid solid material and technical foundations of the factory by fully displaying the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and are mass-producing quality semiconductor materials, the (North) Korean Central News Agency said.

   Kim has made nearly 80 field trips this year, compared to about 50 last year. By traveling nationwide so often, Kim, 67, who reportedly had a stroke in August last year, appears to be trying to demonstrate he is fully in charge of the country, Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said earlier this week.

   Recent photos showed Kim wearing sneakers on rough road trips or flat dress shoes in farms and factories, instead of his signature platform shoes he used to wear before the reported stroke to add height to his stature.

   Kim "warmly encouraged the workers there in their dynamic 150-day campaign," the report said, referring to the North's labor mobilization project that started in late April.

   "Our science and technology can serve as a powerful engine for the revolution and construction and provide a scientific and technological guarantee for building a great prosperous and powerful nation only when they are closely combined with production," Kim was quoted as saying at the science school.

   Kim was accompanied by Workers' Party department directors including his Jang Song-thaek, his brother-in-law believed to be the de-facto No. 2 figure in the country overseeing state affairs on behalf of the aging leader. Jang, married to Kim's younger sister Kim Kyong-hui, reportedly plays a key role in grooming the leader's third and youngest son, Jong-un, as the successor.

  (END)