NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 70 (September 3, 2009) |
*** NEWS IN BRIEF
N. Korean Leader Prods Officials in Economic Revival Effort
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il called on high-ranking officials to put forth their best efforts in turning the country into a thriving nation by 2012, saying they are running out of time, the North's state-run broadcaster said on Aug. 28.
The call came in a report aired by Pyongyang's Korean Central Broadcating Station (KCBS) on a statement that Kim delivered on June 25 before senior officials of the Workers' Party, the military and the government.
In the statement, Kim Jong-il urged the officials to do whatever is necessary to complete the task at hand, emphasizing that less than three years remain until the target date for becoming a Kangsong Taeguk, or a great, prosperous and powerful nation, KCBS said.
Describing this year as an "important year to make a breakthrough in pursuing the North's long-term goal," Kim said the country should make considerable progress before 2010, the 65th anniversary of the Workers' Party.
The KCBS has issued the full text of the statement in a series of programs aired from Aug. 24.
2012 is the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder and Jong-il's father. The term Kangsong Taeguk was first referred to in an article printed by Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party, in 1998.
North Korea Says No Flood Damage Yet This Summer
MT. KUMGANG, North Korea (Yonhap) -- North Korea did not suffer any major flood damage from summer's torrential downpours, a Pyongyang official said at inter-Korean talks on Aug. 28, suggesting the fall harvest could be good this year.
North Korean media have since July sporadically reported heavy rains that also hit lower parts of South Korea, but there has been no mention of damage or flood-related deaths.
"We asked the North if there was any flood damage (in the monsoon season), and they said there wasn't," Kim Young-chel, secretary general of South Korean Red Cross Society and chief delegate to the three-day talks, told pool reporters.
Kim and his North Korean counterpart held talks at the North's Mt. Kumgang resort and agreed to hold reunions next month for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. The last reunion was held nearly two years ago.
Seasonal floods are common in North Korea, where decades of deforestation have left the country without the natural protection of tree cover or an established root system.
After downpours in July 2006, 844 people were reported dead or missing in North Korea and 28,000 households were affected. In 2007, heavy rains left about 500 people dead or missing and about 900,000 were affected by floods, according to North Korean and U.N. reports.
Unusually 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.
South Korea still expects North Korea will be short by 1 million tons of the amount of food it needs for its 24 million people.
Amid Power Shift in Japan, N.K. Renews Call for Apology Over Sex Slaves
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea demanded on Aug. 31 that Japan "break with its crooked past" and apologize for forcing hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slavery during World War II, a call apparently aimed at Tokyo's new government.
A day after the center-left opposition Democratic Party of Japan secured a landslide win that ended half a century of domination by a single, conservative party in Japan, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's main newspaper, carried a commentary criticizing the country's past militarism. The article urged Tokyo emulate Germany, which apologized and compensated for crimes committed under Nazi rule during World War II.
"Japan should follow in the footsteps of countries that have demonstrated integrity in clearing up the past," said the paper, published by the Workers' Party. "For Japan to gain international trust, it must squarely break with its crooked past."
Historians say more than 200,000 young women, mostly from Korea and other neighboring Asian nations, were forced by the Japanese military to serve at frontline brothels during World War II. Tokyo has acknowledged the existence of these women, euphemistically called "comfort women," but denies any government involvement, saying the victims were recruited and dispatched by groups acting independently.
Over the past decades, both North and South Korea, along with the international community, have repeatedly called for Japan to issue an apology. Japan colonized Korea from 1910 to 1945.
The North Korean paper noted recent forums in the United States in which people called on Washington to submit a resolution to the United Nations to denounce the sex slavery. A group of Chinese lawyers also sent a letter to about 20 Japanese enterprises demanding compensations for Chinese citizens mobilized for forced labor during the war, the paper said.
"Many wars have been recorded in human history," it said, "but it is only Japan that, under the directive of the government and the military, has committed inhuman crimes on such a massive scale, ordering arrests, abductions and the kidnapping of women to be taken to the battlefield as sex slaves."
Japan has a "historic, legal and moral responsibility to frankly acknowledge and compensate" for its past wrongdoing, the paper added.
In Seoul, scores of the nearly 120 surviving South Korean "comfort women" continue to stage protests outside the Japanese embassy. They have been holding them every Wednesday since 1992.
The legislatures of the United States, the European Union, the Netherlands and Canada have all passed non-binding resolutions in recent years demanding that Japan apologize to these women.
North Korean Newspapers Trumpet Inter-Korean Peace, Unity
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean newspapers called for the need to promote inter-Korean peace and unity last week amid thawing political tensions.
In a radical turnaround from its hard-line policy, Pyongyang has been sending peace overtures to the United States and South Korea following recent Pyongyang visits by the former U.S. President Bill Clinton and South Korean Hyun Jeong-eun, chairwoman of Hyundai Group. Inter-Korean relations remained virtually frozen following the launch of the conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak last year.
Rodong Sinmun, organ of the Workers' Party, on Aug. 31 claimed the two Koreas must boldly remove their feelings of mistrust and confrontation and make a policy shift toward cross-border peace and unity.
"What matters is whether one has the will to achieve national reconciliation and unity or not," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted the newspaper as saying. "If the North and the South tolerate and recognize each other's ideology and system from a patriotic and reunification-oriented stand, they are certain to achieve the great national unity and realize national reunification," the daily said.
Uriminzokkiri, known as the North's official Website, recalled in a commentary posted on the same day leader Kim Jong-il's undated remarks that his country must achieve a grand unity of Koreans living on the Korean Peninsula and abroad in the "our nation first" spirit.
North Korean media attributed the recent mood of peace between the two Koreas to Kim's "passionate love for the nation and strong will toward reunification."
On Aug. 29, Tongil Sinbo, a North Korean weekly newspaper, remarked that Kim's meeting with Hyun Jeong-eun and a North Korean delegation's visit with President Lee in Seoul opened the way for improving relations.
North Korea, during Hyun's visit, agreed to revive a set of defunct inter-Korean cooperation projects, including the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and tours to the North Korean mountain resort of Kumgang. Pyongyang later sent a delegation to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung late last month.
The bold steps initiated by Kim to develop inter-Korean ties were driven by respect for the teachings left behind by his late father, state founder Kim Il-sung, the weekly claimed.
On the same day, Rodong Sinmun renewed pressure on Seoul to carry out agreements signed in summit meetings in 2000 and 2007 between leaders of the two Koreas.
"There can be no discrimination between government and non-government nor limitation by affiliations and status in implementing the inter-Korean declarations," the newspaper said in a signed article carried by the KCNA. "All Koreans at home and abroad should become defenders and implementers of the joint declarations with responsibility for their implementation, transcending differences in ideology and system," the article claimed.
Kim Jong-il Calls Peace Treaty with U.S. Fundamental Solution
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il said that only a peace treaty with the United States would remove the danger of war on the Korean Peninsula, a Pyongyang-based radio station reported on Aug. 31.
"The problem of easing tension and removing the danger of war on the peninsula can be resolved when the U.S. abandons its hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) and signs a peace agreement," Radio Pyongyang quoted Kim as saying. It did not mention when and where he made the remark.
The North's state media have often raised the need to replace the current truce with a peace agreement in order to ensure permanent peace on the peninsula, but have rarely quoted the leader himself as saying so. The two Koreas remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
The radio station said there is no reason or excuse for the U.S. to maintain a hostile policy toward the North at a time when all Koreans at home and abroad are pursuing inter-Korean reunification, peace and prosperity.
"The U.S. must scrap its anti-DPRK policy, a legacy of the old age of confrontation, which goes against the trend of the time going toward peace and reunification," it stressed.
North Korean Foreign Ministry Delegation Visits China
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il headed to China on Sept. 1, Pyongyang's state news agency reported, a trip presumed to be in preparation for an exchange of higher-level visits between the two countries who mark 60 years of diplomatic ties this year.
"A foreign ministry delegation, led by Vice Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il, left Pyongyang on Sept. 1 by plane for a trip to China," the North's Korean Central News Agency said in a one-paragraph dispatch.
It gave no details on the itinerary or the purpose of the trip.
Observers said that as Kim is in charge of the North's relations with China and other Asian countries, the visit is likely intended for discussions on bilateral issues, especially on scheduling planned trips by senior officials.
The North's delegation may also address the deadlocked six-way talks on its nuclear program. The talks are hosted by China and also involve South Korea, the U.S., Russia and Japan.
Kim served as Pyongyang's top representative to the first round of the six-party negotiations, held in August 2003. China's top nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, visited Pyongyang last month in an apparent bid to persuade the North to return to the talks.
Pyongyang has withdrawn from the multilateral forum and has indicated it wants direct bilateral talks with Washington.
Beijing's foreign ministry confirmed Kim's arrival in China, calling it part of an exchange of high-level visits between the two countries for the anniversary of diplomatic ties.
"Vice Foreign Minister Kim will meet with Chinese foreign ministry officials and exchange opinions on issues of mutual concern," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a press briefing. She did not provide further details.
North Korea Airs Television Commercials
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The age of television ads has opened in North Korea, the most isolated country in the world.
North Korea's state TV has been running commercials for quail dishes served at Pyongyang's famous Okryugwan restaurant, as well as locally grown ginseng. The country's first TV commercial message appeared in July.
"Okryugwan restaurant, famous for Pyongyang-style iced noodles, is going to serve quail dishes beginning Sept. 1," an advertisement declared on the North's Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station on Aug. 30. The commercial claimed the dish could relieve stress, bad eyesight and indigestion.
State media earlier reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il himself had instructed that Okryugwan should serve only the best of quail dishes.
The same television station has also been running an advertisement boasting the health benefits of ginseng with the patriotic slogan, "Our Pride, Kaesong Koryo Insam Ginseng!" since Aug. 7.
The most popular of the North's advertisements has so far been the country's first beer commercial.
Demand for the alcoholic beverage has been on the rise since a commercial for Taedonggang Beer made its debut on July 2, according to Pyongyang's weekly Tongil Sinbo newspaper. The ad's slogan, "Ah, Refreshing! Taedonggang Beer," made a big hit among North Koreans, according to well informed sources.
Little is known about the North's burgeoning advertising industry, and whether the station is paid for the advertisements or how they are produced.