NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 79 (November 5, 2009) |
*** NEWS IN BRIEF
Chinese President Invites North Korean Leader: KCNA
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao formally invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to visit China "at a convenient time," Pyongyang's state news agency reported on Oct. 29, amid a flurry of top-level visits between the communist allies to celebrate the 60th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.
Hu offered the invitation at an Oct. 28 meeting with Choe Thae-bok, one of the closest aides to Kim, according to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Choe, secretary of the North's powerful Workers' Party, was leading a party delegation in Beijing.
Choe's trip was the latest in a series of high-profile visits between the two sides in recent months, a show of their robust alliance despite the U.N.-led punishment against Pyongyang for its nuclear and missile tests earlier this year.
In early October, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao traveled to Pyongyang and met the North's leader. Chinese media said Wen secured Kim's conditional promise that his country will rejoin the six-party talks involving South Korea, Russia, the U.S. and Japan.
Kim reportedly said Pyongyang will return to the multilateral negotiations only if there is progress in anticipated one-on-one negotiations with Washington.
Unlike the Wen-Kim meeting, however, Hu and the visiting North Korean official stopped short of addressing the sensitive nuclear issue and instead focused on exchanging cordial comments on bilateral relations, according to Chinese media reports on Oct. 28.
In a similar tone, the KCNA quoted the Chinese leader as saying the trip by the Workers' Party delegation shows that Pyongyang prioritizes ties with Beijing.
The visit by the delegation "is an indication that Kim Jong-il and the party and the government of the DPRK (North Korea) attach utmost importance to the development of the relations between the two countries," Hu was quoted as saying.
China is ready to strive with North Korea "to put the relations of friendship between the two countries on a new stage, defend regional peace and stability and achieve common development and prosperity" by expanding cooperation and visits, he said.
Kim generally avoids cross-border trips due to security concerns, and last visited China in 2006.
Kim Jong-il Orders Modernization of Kimilsung University: Report
SEOUL (Yonhap) - The recent renovation of a top North Korean university were done in response to a call from leader Kim Jong-il to transform it into a world-class school, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on Oct. 29.
North Korea built a "modern" indoor swimming pool at the Kimilsung University this year and is now pushing to add an electronic library to the campus in Pyongyang, according to Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by a group of pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan. Kim Jong-il has shown much interest in the renovation projects by visiting the university twice in March and September.
The school originally planned to simply repair its old outdoor swimming pool, but the leader suggested reconstructing it into a "world-class modern indoor pool," the newspaper said. "This is my present to the university faculty and students," Kim was quoted as saying.
"With the completion of the swimming pool, the construction of an electronic library is now in full swing," the daily said. An old lecture building standing on a hill of the campus will be reconstructed to be an e-library building, it added.
The university also plans to build a new lecture building, a roof park, houses for faculty and a dormitory for students, the daily said.
Kim graduated from the university as a politics and economy major.
North Korea on Alert over Flu Pandemic
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea emphasized on Oct. 30 that no Influenza A (H1N1) cases have been reported in the country and that thorough quarantine systems are in place.
Any contact with the H1N1 virus could be particularly dangerous to people in North Korea, many of whom are undernourished and may have impaired immune systems, North Korea watchers say.
"Strict anti-epidemic work is now under way in the DPRK (North Korea) where no A/H1N1 flu has yet occurred," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
"A more strict quarantine inspection is now conducted at the airport, trade ports and border posts to cope with the situation where the number of new influenza cases is on the steady increase in the countries and region geographically close to the DPRK," it added.
More than 40 people have died from the flu in South Korea since August, and an average of 8,000 people here were infected per day last week, feeding fears the virus may spread more quickly as winter descends.
North Korea said it was stepping up intergovernmental efforts to prevent the spread of the disease from other countries. The State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Committee has set up a well-regulated information system, and other agencies have organized workshops to educate health workers on dealing with the new flu, the KCNA said.
"Those suspected of being new influenza cases are sent to health institutions to undergo tests," it added. The report did not clarify whether the country does have suspected cases.
Radio Pyongyang, meanwhile, cited data from the World Health Organization that some 414,000 people have been infected with the virus and that about 5,000 of them have died around the world. The reports explained in detail flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, headache, sore neck, coughing and diarrhea, and how the virus is transmitted.
North Korea has been conscious of outside skepticism regarding its claims that the country has seen no cases of the new flu. Earlier this month, Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, carried an interview in Pyongyang with a senior North Korean quarantine official who dismissed such concerns.
"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 Myong-su, vice chairman of the North's State Emergency Anti-epidemic Commission, said in the interview.
"Such questions are understandable, but we would have no reason to hide if we have any patients," he said. North Korea promptly reported a 2005 outbreak of avian influenza to U.N. agencies, he noted.
In May, the World Health Organization supplied an emergency stockpile of Tamiflu to North Korea and other developing countries.
North Korean Leader Visits Hydropower Station
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited a hydropower station in the western part of the country, along with Workers' Party officials, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Oct. 30.
During the visit, Kim urged the early completion of the installation of generators being constructed at the power plant in North Pyongan Province, bordering China, the KCNA said.
Kim was accompanied by Workers' Party officials, including his only brother-in-law Jang Song-thaek, who is a department director of the party, and Kim Ki-nam, a secretary of the party.
The exact date of the visit was not disclosed, but the KCNA report came three days after another one saying Kim had watched a soldiers' performance at a Korean People's Army (KPA) art festival.
One day later, the KCNA said Kim Jong-il recently made a visit to the Unhung Cooperative Farm in Thaechon County, North Pyongan Province, where he lauded local officials and farmers for their work.
The report did not specify when Kim made the visit. He expressed "great satisfaction" over the farm's overall production rate, which the KCNA described as contributing to bringing about the nation's "richest harvest ever known."
Kim also underscored "the need to boldly improve the structure of the nation's agricultural production" and highlighted that double cropping was a great way to increase grain production in a country where "the area of cultivated land is limited."
N. Korea Awards Football Team for Advancing to 2010 World Cup
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea bestowed awards on players and coaches of its national football team for advancing to next year's World Cup finals, their first entry in more than four decades, state media said on Nov. 3.
Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), awarded the merit citations and medals in a ceremony on Nov. 2, said the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station, an official radio channel.
The football players "brought glory to the homeland and encouraged our military and people who are in a great struggle to build a thriving nation," the report said.
Among the award winners were Kim Jong-sik and Kim Jong-su, director and a vice director at the Commission of Physical Culture and Sports Guidance. They received merit citations of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung and current leader Kim Jong-il, respectively, it said.
The team coach, Kim Jong-hun, and players also received honorary titles of "people's athletic" or "merited athletic," the report said.
North Korea qualified for next year's World Cup finals in South Africa for the first time since 1966. In that World Cup in Britain, North Korea beat Italy on the way to the quarterfinals before losing to Portugal.
As part of preparations for the finals next year, North Korea will hold a friendly with a Brazilian professional club, Club Atletico Sorocaba, at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on Nov. 5.
In early October, North Korea traveled to the western French city of Nantes to face off with second-league club FC Nantes. The match ended in a scoreless draw.