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2009/07/23 11:08 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 64 (July 23, 2009)

  
*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

New Film on 'Mt. Paektu Bloodline' Popular in N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A new film stressing the importance of continuing the "Mt. Paektu bloodline" is making a big splash in North Korea, state media said on July 16, amid reports of an imminent second hereditary power succession.

   "A white birch of Mt. Paektu," an art-house film produced in early June, centers on the idea that the future of North Korea depends upon "purely succeeding the Mt. Paektu bloodline," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   "This movie is bringing a big repercussion in the military and among the people, especially the young, and will contribute to arming the People's Army soldiers, workers and young students with the Mt. Peaktu bloodline," the KCNA said.

   The mountain, which borders on China, is the official birthplace of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, although Soviet records show he was actually born in a Soviet village. The title, therefore, is an apparent allusion to Kim's "bloodline."

   Speculation has mounted over a power succession in North Korea since Kim, 67, reportedly suffered a stroke last summer. The North's media has recently emphasized the themes of "bloodline" and "inheritance" in reports and commentaries, which many analysts view as a possible indication that the country may be preparing for another hereditary transfer of power.

   Kim took over after his father's death in 1994 in the first father-to-son succession in a socialist country. Seoul's intelligence agency said Kim has designated his third and last son Jong-un as successor. A second hereditary power transfer would be unprecedented in the history of communist nations.

   North Korea held a preview of the film on June 10 at a theatre in Pyongyang with high-ranking communist party and government officials attending.

   On July 15, a literary study group held a discussion after watching the film, the KCNA said.

   "The movie underlines that the young people of our age should stand in the frontline of defending Suryong (leader) even at the cost of their lives and that the mission of the youth living in the Songun (military-first) age is to become a fighter who defends and holds onto the revolutionary tradition," the report quoted speakers at the meeting as saying.

  
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Cabinet Discusses Ways to Carry Out '150-day Battle'

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North Korean Cabinet recently convened a regular plenary session to discuss how to fulfill goals set in the "150-day battle" economic campaign currently under way in the socialist state, official media said on July 18.

   The North launched the campaign in early May to advance its goal of building a "Kangsong Taeguk," or strong, prosperous and powerful nation by 2012. The year marks the centenary of late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's death.

   The meeting discussed ways to "open up a breakthrough to make the 150-day battle a success by decisively solving the shortage of electricity in the fields of power and metal industries and boosting the production of iron and steel," the KCNA said.

   Also discussed were possible innovations in the coal mining industry and railway transportation, as well as ways to fulfill goals set for the extraction, machine, chemical, construction and forestry sectors without fail, the agency said.

  
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North Korea Silent over Possible Flood Damage

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Heavy rains hit Pyongyang and North Korea's northern region over the mid-July, raising concerns of casualties and damage to farms, but it has been difficult for outsiders to assess the losses.

   The North's state media said Pyongyang had 234mm of rain over the span of 18 hours. Yodok in South Hamgyong Province, a northern mountainous county infamous for its political prisoners' camp, had 287mm, it said. There was no mention of flood damage.

   "As of now, there have been reports on the amounts of rainfall, but none about any damage caused as a result. It is difficult to find out if there is any flood damage in the North" in the absence of North Korean media reports, Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said in a briefing.

   Officials in Seoul forecast that this year's damage so far may not be as severe as that which followed heavy rains in the country in 2006 or 2007. Since this year's monsoon season began on the peninsula on June 20, the rain has fallen intermittently and at irregular locations in North Korea, possibly lessening its impact, they said. Rainfall started in the South and moved northward.

   "In 2007, the rain fell for over 10 days, and it came constantly, with precipitation of up to 700 millimeters. It's different now," a ministry official said, asking to remain anonymous.

   According to the Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, Pyongyang had 453mm of rain over the past three weeks, while the Pyonggang county in southern Kangwon Province had 643.5mm, and Kaesong, just north of the inter-Korean border, 358.7mm. Northern towns of Huichon in Jagang Province and Hamhung in South Hamgyong Province had 399.1mm and 219.3mm, respectively.

  
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North Korea Sets up Food Ministry

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on July 22 it has created a special ministry to handle food-related affairs, following U.N. reports that the isolated state will not be able to feed millions of its people.

   The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly issued a decree to set up Ministry of Foodstuff and Daily Necessities Industry, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a one-line report. It gave no further details.

   In a New Year's editorial published by state media, North Korea vowed to "solve food problems by our own efforts" and rebuild the country's ailing economy by 2012. The year marks the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and the father of current leader Kim Jong-il.

   North Korea is expected to suffer from a food shortage of up to 840,000 tons this year, according to a South Korean government estimate based on U.N. reports.

   The country's total grain production is expected to reach around 4.29 million tons this year, falling short of the minimum 5.13 million tons needed to feed its 24 million people.

  (END)