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2009/07/16 10:51 KST

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea to Resume Arirang Performance in August

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on July 9 that its mass gymnastic and artistic performance "Arirang" will be staged at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang from Aug. 10 to late September.

   "Arirang produced on the 70th founding anniversary of the (North) Korean People's Army has demonstrated before the world the invincible might of Songun (military-first) Korea in which the army and people are rallied close around leader Kim Jong-il and the tremendous mental power of the (North) Korean people," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief dispatch while announcing the performance schedule.

   "The group of creators and performers are successfully pushing forward its re-representation at a final phase," said the KCNA.

   Last year, the Arirang mass games, an annual gymnastic display involving 100,000 performers, had been staged daily before packed crowds in Pyongyang since Aug. 4. North Korea regularized the show in 2002.


N. Korea Putting Final Touches on Joint Census with U.N.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media said on July 10 that the country is wrapping up a census believed to be its first joint survey with the United Nations in 15 years.

   The door-to-door survey was conducted between October 1-15 last year, with the final tally expected to be released in October this year. The preliminary count, reported in February, was 24,050,000.

   The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country conducted a "post-survey" to evaluate the census, taking a 1 percent sample of the entire population and found that the margin of error in the population count was "very low."

   The post-survey reviewed major points of the census, such as the extent of errors in the count, individuals' relationship to their households, gender, age, education levels and marital status, it said.

   As reasons for the low error margin, the report quoted a local census official as saying that the country has a "systematic" population registry and has temporarily banned movements before and after the census. It also praised the "high integrity" of survey takers.

   "The second population census is making progress in its final stage," the report said.

   North Korea's first joint census with the UNDP was conducted in 1993 and released the following year. North Korea releases its own census in its annals, with the latest data available in the 2008 edition putting the number at 23,612,000.


N. Korean Leader Gives Field Guidance to Tile Factory

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has visited a newly built tile factory, state media said, as fresh speculation emerged about his health.

   In a dispatch dated on July 13 and published around midnight, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim gave "field guidance" to the Taedong River Tile Factory and "went round its interior and exterior" to learn about its facilities. Neither the date of the visit nor the plant's location were revealed.

   Subsequent photographs showed Kim walking alongside plant installments while being briefed by a factory official. Dressed for the outdoors in sunglasses and a short-sleeved shirt, the 67-year-old leader looked more active and less frail than he did at last week's official memorial.

   North Korean state media continued to report on Kim's brisk activities, with the latest visit bringing the total number of his public tours so far this year to 82, compared to 57 last year.

   Kim "expressed great satisfaction over the fact that the soldier builders have built the modern factory in such a manner as to let it win the admiration of posterity," the KCNA said.

   The factory's production relies strictly on locally available raw materials, he said, and such "successful endeavors being made by all domains of the national economy ... fully reflect the unshakable faith of the Korean people to build a great prosperous and powerful nation on this land by their own efforts, resources and technology without fail."

   His entourage included Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the Workers' Party central committee, party department directors Park Nam-gi and Jang Song-thaek, and Korean People's Army generals Hyon Chol-hae and Ri Myong-su.


N. Korean Automaker Aims to Return to Peak Production by 2012

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's sole home-grown automaker seeks to expand its annual production capacity to 10,000 units by 2012, a level not reached since its peak in the 1970s, a pro-Pyongyang paper said on July 14.

   The Sungri Motor Complex, which started production in 1958, has gone downhill as the country suffered economic downturns and severe famine in the decades following the 1970s.

   Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that relays Pyongyang's position to the outside world, said the automaker is aspiring to return to its record production capacity by 2012, the target year for the country to become a "strong, prosperous and powerful nation."

   "As production decreased from the 70s, the workforce of the motor company fell to 75 percent of the peak years," the paper said.

   "During economic hardships in the late 90s, the company was close to not breathing. But now, anyone active in production is talking about the 'promised revival,'" it said.

   The paper noted North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's trip in March to the complex, located at the foot of Mt. Sungni in South Pyongan Province, during which he stressed that the "modernization and scientification of the complex" is the most important factor in increasing output.

   Kim then "guaranteed" state support to introduce computer numerical control machines to the complex, it said.

   The automaker started producing hundreds of trucks named "Sungri 58-type," "Sungri 61-type" or "Jaju (independence) 64-type" in late April, but output is "still in their early stage," the paper said.

   North Korea seeks to build a "strong, prosperous and powerful nation" by 2012, the centenary of the birth year of Kim Il-sung, the nation's founder and father of North Korea's current leader, Kim Jong-il, who will turn 70 that year.


N.K. Prepares for Flood Damage as Torrential Rain Hits Peninsula

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media said on July 14 that the country's workers were joining efforts to prevent potential flood damage from torrential rains now battering the country that Seoul's meteorologists say will be severe.

   Seasonal floods are common in North Korea where decades of deforestation have left the country without a natural protection against annual rains, which can wipe out harvests and threaten the country's already unstable food production.

   Railroad and transportation workers in Sariwon, North Hwanghae Province, "are putting their energy into projects to prevent damage during the torrential rainy season," state-run Radio Pyongyang said.

   The workers are examining railroad drainage facilities, repairing eroded parts and setting up emergency measures, it said.

   The Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul has forecast that the current storm will be more severe in some parts of North Korea than in the South. Southern and central parts of North Korea are expected to receive 60 to 150 millimeters of rain on July 14, compared to Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi Province, which is forecast to receive some 50 to 100mm.

   The peninsula's monsoon season began on June 20, with Seoul having since received 490mm of rain in the past 12 days through July 13, the most recorded since 1980.

   Unseasonably mild weather last year allowed North Korea's grain harvest to expand to 4.3 million tons, compared with 4 million tons in 2007, according to South Korean government data. North Korea is expected to need an additional 1 million ton or more of outside aid this year to feed its 24 million people, according to Seoul officials.


N. Korean State Media Release Photos of Sitting Kim Jong-il

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media on July 14 released the latest photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, some of which show him seated in a chair during a field guidance trip.

   The rare images of Kim seated in an armchair during a trip to a tile factory, released by the North's Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, spurred rumors that he may now be too frail to stand long hours of outdoor activity.

   Kim's undated visit to the Taedong River Tile Factory was reported by state media as fresh speculation emerged in Seoul about his health. A South Korean cable network said on July 13 that Kim has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and could die in a year's time.

   Seoul officials, however, denied speculation that the photos may be a sign of his deteriorating health.

   "There have not been many photographs in which he is seated in the outdoors, but this is not the first time," Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a briefing on July 15.

   "Our judgment is that it is difficult to see any signs of his failing health from yesterday's picture."

   The photographs also suggested Kim may have started smoking again after quitting years ago on his doctors' advice. Next to his armchair was a glass ashtray on a wooden table.

   An ashtray also appeared in front of Kim in an April photo, following images in February that showed him taking a puff and exhaling smoke while touring a cigarette factory.

   The 67-year-old Kim, formerly a big fan of Dunhill cigarettes, reportedly quit smoking before he turned 60 because his doctors worried about his history of diabetes and heart disease. His decision led to a nationwide anti-smoking campaign using such extreme slogans as "Cigarettes are like guns aimed at your heart."

   Smoking would be particularly detrimental to Kim's health if he suffered a stroke in August last year as believed.

   Concerning the reported terminal cancer, the South Korean government said it had no information to share, a stance echoed by Washington.

   The latest photos also showed Kim wearing a short-sleeved shirt for the first time since his suspected stroke. He has worn a parka or long-sleeved shirts so far. Kim has conducted 82 field guidance trips this year, compared to 57 for the same time last year.