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2009/10/15 10:59 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 76 (October 15, 2009)


North Korean Leader Honors Farming as 'Patriotic Work'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il lauded agriculture as "patriotic work" that is essential to improving the quality of life in the country, state media said Friday, reporting on his latest field trips.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and other media said Kim visited the Migok Co-op Farm and the newly-built North Hwanghae Provincial Art Theater in North Hwanghae Province, south of Pyongyang. The date of the visits was not given.

   Farming is "patriotic work that transforms rural areas into a modern, socialist places with better quality of life," Kim was quoted as telling farmers by the KCNA.

   Solving food shortages is one of the top goals of the North's campaign to build a "prosperous" nation by 2012, the birth centennial of the leader's father and the country's founder, Kim Il-sung.

   For the 2012 campaign, Kim has significantly increased his public visits so far this year to 119, compared to 75 made during the same period of last year and 60 in 2007, according to data from Seoul's Unification Ministry.

   The South Korean government expects the North's harvests this year will fall about one million tons short of the amount it needs to feed its 24 million people.

   Kim said the farmers' tenacious drive "reaped the richest-ever harvest" this year. He looked around the construction of new houses and the living of farmers there, visited a farm supply store, the Migok Shop, and mounted a platform to gain a bird's eye view of the farm, the KCNA said.

   "The rich autumn scenery in the fields of this co-operative farm, which has gained bumper crops, is something spectacular which can be seen only in our socialist countryside under the collective economy system," Kim said.

   "What is most important for solving the problem of clothing, food and housing is to increase agricultural production," Kim pointed out.

   Kim separately visited the provincial art theater and watched a performance, the reports said.

   In both visits, Kim was accompanied by Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the Workers' Party central committee, and the party's department directors Pak Nam-gi and Jang Song-thaek as well as provincial officials, they said.


North Korea Marks Party Anniversary with Calls for Unity

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea observed the 64th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party on Oct. 10 with calls to unite around leader Kim Jong-il and build a thriving nation.

   The anniversary, a major holiday in the socialist state, came as regional powers push North Korea to return to denuclearization talks.

   In a lengthy editorial dedicated to the day, Rodong Sinmun, organ of the political party, said, "All party members, People's Army soldiers and the people should polish our socialist fatherland founded by the Great Suryong (Kim Il-sung) into an everlastingly prosperous and developing Kangsong Taeguk (strong, prosperous and powerful country) of self-reliance by uniting around the great Workers' Party and carrying out plans and goals presented by the party."

   North Korea aims to build a strong, prosperous and powerful country by 2012, the centenary of late leader and state founder Kim Il-sung's birth.

   The newspaper asked the people to make a big stride in the ongoing "100-day battle," a typical mass mobilization drive that began a few days after the closure of the "150-day battle" on Sept. 16. The isolated North has been exhorting people to work extra hours and donate more to try to revive its lackluster economy as its access to international assistance is strictly limited by sanctions.

   The daily lauded Kim Jong-il as the "great leader" of the Workers' Party and a symbol of the country's "invincible power."

   In a separate article, the newspaper said it is the greatest honor and fortune that North Koreans have "General Kim Jong-il" as the leader of their sole political party.

   Uriminzokkiri, known as the North's official Website, urged the people to unite around "General Kim Jong-il" and faithfully support his Songun (military-first) revolutionary leadership.

   Kim Jong-il watched a joint performance given by the Unhasu Orchestra, the Mansudae Art Troupe and the Samjiyon Band on the 64th birthday of the Workers' Party, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The report, however, did not provide the date or venue of the concert.

   On the eve of the anniversary, a fireworks display was given at the plaza of the Party Founding Memorial Tower in Pyongyang, the KCNA and other state media said on Oct. 10.

   Present at the event were Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Premier Kim Yong-il, Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Party Secretaries Jon Byong-ho, Choe Thae-bok, Kim Kuk-tae, Kim Jung-rin and Kim Ki-nam. Foreign diplomats and representatives from international organizations in Pyongyang were also invited, but there was no report on Kim Jong-il's attendance.

   "The fireworks to decorate the nocturnal sky of the capital city with multiple colors will be an expression of the firm faith and will of the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea) to advance forever single-mindedly united around the headquarters of the revolution, and the fireworks to shake the land and sky will herald the victory of the drive to open the gate to a thriving nation," Choe said in his address.

   Dancing parties and various cultural performances, including a circus show, were held in the country's capital and other big cities in celebration of the holiday, the KCNA said.

   Meanwhile, Rodong Sinmun on Oct. 13 asked members of the Workers' Party to increase their role in the construction of Kangsong Taeguk.

   "An important time has arrived for the construction of a Kangsong Taeguk," the newspaper said in a lengthy editorial carried by the KCNA. "We cannot think about the great task of building a Kangsong Taeguk without a devoted struggle by party members who came to have one ideology and will, ideal and hope and mind and step with the Beloved General (Kim Jong-il)," it stressed. It said party members should fulfill tasks given by the leader even at the cost of their lives.


North Korea Says It Wants Closer Relations with South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Oct. 11 it wants closer ties with the South, citing a recent cross-border family reunion event and the resumption of traffic flows to an inter-Korean industrial complex as evidence of its goodwill.

   "We maintain an unchanging stance on building up the North-South relationship," the North's official Web site, Uriminzokkiri, said in a commentary.

   The Web site credited the reunion event held earlier this month entirely to the North, describing it as the "result of generous efforts" by the communist country, adding that it also took "bold and practical measures" to reinvigorate the Kaesong industrial complex.

   The North, which had been openly critical of Seoul following President Lee Myung-bak's inauguration in February of last year, has made a series of conciliatory gestures towards the South and the international community in recent months.

   Aside from the reunion of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, held in September for the first time in nearly two years, the North also lifted restrictions on cargo and workers from the South traveling to the Kaesong complex.

   The commentary highlighted efforts to expand cross-border cooperation and ultimately expedite the process of unification, describing them as "important calls" made in accords signed by the two countries in past inter-Korean summits.

   Despite the nuclear deadlock and international sanctions, the North continues to demand that Seoul follow through with the accords of 2000 and 2007, reached between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and then South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

   Lee, Roh's conservative successor, suspended unconditional aid to the North and toughened up on its nuclear program.

   "All people (of the two Koreas) are deseparately hoping to improve North-South relations and achieve unification through (implementation) of the joint accords," the Web site said.


N. Korea Building New Housing Districts in Pyongyang: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is carrying out a major urban development project in Pyongyang with the goal of providing some 100,000 new houses by 2012, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Tokyo reported on Oct. 12.

   The year 2012 marks the birth centennial of the country's founder, Kim Il-sung, and the year when his son and current leader Kim Jong-il turns 70. Pyongyang has declared a goal of building a "great, prosperous and powerful" nation by then.

   Choson Sinbo, which usually conveys Pyongyang's views, described the housing construction as an "unprecedented national project" and a "core project" in the country's campaign looking to 2012.

   The paper reported that the North was in the process of building 65,000 new houses in the city's western district of Mangyongdae, where Kim Il-sung's birth home is located, 15,000 houses in central Pyongyang and 20,000 houses along the railroad spanning between the southern district of Ryokpo and Ryongsong district in the capital's northern region.

   Each home will be approximately 100 square meters in size, according to the newspaper. The paper said that the completion of the housing project will solve the problem plaguing the citizens of Pyongyang.

   The North Korean capital, despite a strict control on the entry of people from rural areas, has reportedly been going through a major housing shortage.

   In the past, Pyongyang has built 50,000 new apartments each in the 1980s and the 1990s.

   In 2001, North Korea sought to develop a satellite city of some 1 million households near the Mangyongdae district, but failed due to the nation's economic woes.


U.S. Pastor Arrives in North Korea on Humanitarian Mission

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A U.S. pastor who heads an aid organization arrived in Pyongyang on Oct. 13 on a visit he hoped would help improve relations between the two countries, North Korea's official news wire reported.

   Franklin Graham, the son of renowned Christian evangelist Billy Graham, and his entourage flew to the North's capital, Pyongyang, by a private jet, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The English-language report quoted Graham as saying he "came to Korea to play the role of a bridge for better relations" between the U.S. and the North.

   The KCNA, however, did not say whom he would meet or how long he would stay.

   Graham, who runs aid group Samaritan's Purse, said on his Web site on Oct. 9 that he will meet high-level government officials and follow up on humanitarian assistance projects operated by his organization in the North.

   "I believe it is important to make visits like this to help improve better relations and to have better understanding with each other," Graham said of his third visit to North Korea.

   Graham will also visit a provincial hospital where a generator system installed with the help of Samaritan's Purse is now providing electrical power, the Web site said.

   On the next day, the KCNA said Graham paid a courtesy call on Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun at Mansudae Assembly Hall, where two shared a "friendly conversation."

   The organization has provided medical and dental aid to the North since 1997.

   The Graham family has personal ties with the North. Billy Graham visited the North in 1992 and 1994 and met with the country's leader at that time, Kim Il-sung. Billy's wife, Ruth, attended a missionary school in Pyongyang in the 1930s.


North Korea Claims No Outbreak of Influenza A

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has yet to find any cases of Influenza A (H1N1) in the country despite the flu's global outbreak, a pro-Pyongyang paper said on Oct. 14, citing a top quarantine official.

   North Korea has tightened quarantine inspections at all immigration gates and intensified local medical checkups, and no one has tested positive for the type-A influenza, Choson Sinbo, based in Tokyo, said in a dispatch from Pyongyang.

   "None so far," Pak Myong-su, vice-chairman of the North's State Emergency Anti-epidemic Commission, was quoted by the paper as saying in an interview.

   Pak seemed conscious of outside skepticism about the country's ability to prevent the pandemic. South Korea, despite its comparatively modernized quarantine systems, has reported 15 H1N1-related deaths.

   "I'm often asked how North Korea alone can remain insulated, while the number of new flu patients continues to increase in neighboring countries like China, Russia, South Korea and Japan," Pak said.

   "Such questions are understandable, but we would have no reason to hide if we have any patients," he said. North Korea promptly reported its 2005 outbreak of avian influenza to U.N. agencies, he noted.

   The official explained that his country's quarantine efforts are now focused on preventing the virus from entering its soil through foreign visitors, rather than community infections. Quarantine inspections are thoroughly under way at the airport in Pyongyang and all frontier gates in regions bordering China, and anyone who reports flu-like symptoms is isolated and monitored for seven days, he added.

   There was a suspected case of a Japanese citizen who reported high temperature at the Pyongyang airport and was taken to a hospital, but his symptoms were found not to be flu-related, Pak said.

   North Korea is equipped with a "large quantity" of Tamiflu with the support of international agencies, and the country itself is developing a generic version of the anti-rival medicine, he said.