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2009/11/12 11:16 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 80 (November 12, 2009)


N. Korea Replaces Land and Environment Preservation Minister

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently replaced its land minister, who was retained in April's major shakeup, with obscure figure Kim Chang-ryong, according to state media monitored on Nov. 5 in Seoul.

   The ousted official, Pak Song-nam, had been in the post since 2006. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had reshuffled several ministers on April 9.

   Reporting on a ceremony on Nov. 4 on transport equipment sent by the leader to a seedling farm, the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang cited Minister of Land and Environment Preservation Kim Chang-ryong as one of the participants.

   Little is known here about the new minister.


North Korean Leader Visits Fertilizer, Textile Factories

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has visited a fertilizer factory and a synthetic fabric factory in a northern province and ordered speedy modernization of their facilities, state media said on Nov. 6.

   Kim's trip to the Hungnam Fertilizer Complex highlighted his special care for the country's fertilizer production, as South Korea's aid of the material, essential for rice and corn farming, remains suspended for the second year. Kim visited the same factory in February.

   "The gasification process of the complex is of weighty importance in boosting fertilizer production," Kim was quoted by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying.

   North Korea has developed its own fertilizer production process called "coal gasification." The process converts coal from a solid to a gaseous state that is similar to natural gas, and can be converted to ammonia that is used to make fertilizer. North Korea has rich deposits of coal and would otherwise have to import natural gas for fertilizer production.

   He praised the complex for "entirely depending on locally available raw resources" and emphasized completion of the gasification process "in a brief span of time," the report said
"He showed such great care as unraveling knotty problems on the spot," it added.

   North Korea's own fertilizer output is estimated at less than 500,000 tons a year, about a third of the 1.5 million tons the country needs for its grain farming, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

   Kim also visited the February 8 Vinalon Complex in the same province of South Hamhung, the report said. Vilanon, an artificial textile like nylon, is North Korea's own invention.

   A separate dispatch by the news agency reported that Kim watched performances by art squads from the two complexes. He was accompanied by Workers' Party Secretary Kim Ki-nam and other senior party officials, it added.

   On the next day, the KCNA said Kim Jong-il visited a newly constructed power plant and a farm in the southern area of the country, along with Workers' Party officials.

   During the visit to North Korea's South Hamgyong Province, Kim congratulated laborers who participated in building the power station, and urged farmers to improve farming technologies to resolve the ongoing food shortage in the country, 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.

   And also, Kim Jong-il visited to (North) Korean People's Army Unit 1224, the KCNA said on Nov. 8.


N. Korea Blasts South Korean-U.S. Scenario on Emergency

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 9 accused South Korea and the United States of scheming for war against it, citing their reported completion of a joint action plan to cope with any contingency in the socialist country.

   The allies recently completed their envisioned response to a variety of internal emergencies in North Korea, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a collapse of the Kim Jong-il regime or a mass defection of the people, according to government sources in Seoul.

   The so-called Operational Plan (OPLAN) 5029 will authorize the entry of South Korean and U.S. troops into the North in case of those sudden changes.

   "The warlike forces classified 'the emergency situation' into 'a regime change' in the dignified DPRK (North Korea), 'the spread of WMDs' and nonsensical 'rebellion,' etc. Their concoction of such farcical events which can never happen in the DPRK (North Korea) is an unpardonable provocation to it," Rodong Sinmun, the North's major newspaper published by the Workers' Party, said in a commentary carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

   Reported discussions of the action plan have long provoked North Korea, while concerns have also surfaced in the South that a military intervention may trigger counterattacks from the North and spread to a full-scale war on the peninsula.

   "Those forces went the lengths of simulating all sorts of nonsensical events and citing them as pretexts for mounting preemptive attacks on the DPRK," the paper said.

   "It is a ridiculous and rash action for the warmongers at home and abroad to make desperate efforts to dare do harm to the DPRK. This only brings to light who is chiefly to blame for disturbing peace on the Korean Peninsula and pursuing confrontation and war."


North Korea Eyes Another 'Legend' in 2010 World Cup

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea aims to create a "legend" in next year's World Cup like when it wowed the world four decades ago by advancing to the semi-finals of the international football tournament, a report from Pyongyang said on Nov. 9.

   Expectations for the 2010 tournament are high in North Korea, whose squad in June advanced to the finals for the first time since 1966. The government bestowed awards and medals on players and coaches last week for bringing "glory to the homeland."

   Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper that usually conveys a pro-Pyongyang perspective, carried an interview with a football analyst in the North Korean capital who said the North will hold a series of friendlies in Africa and Europe in coming weeks as part of their build-up to the finals.

   "The (North) Korean team will not be content with entering the World Cup for the first time in 44 years, but will try to create Korea's 'football legend' once again," the analyst, Ri Dong-gyu, said in the interview.

   North Korea held a friendly with a Brazilian professional club, Club Atletico Sorocaba, at May Day Stadium in Pyongyang last week. The match ended in a scoreless draw. In October, the North traveled to France to play second-league club FC Nantes and a team from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which also ended 0-0, respectively.

   Ri noted the absence of major members of the North Korean national team in those matches, like strikers Hong Yong-jo of Russia's FC Rostov in Russia and Jong Tae-se of Japan's Kawasaki Frontale, and Japan-born midfielder An Yong-hak, who plays for South Korea's Suwon Samsung Bluewings.

   The friendlies "were a good opportunity to train substitute players and strengthen the team's power," Ri said.

   North Korea's strength is "mental power" but they also need to sharpen their fast break and counterattack skills and accuracy in shooting, he said.

   The team are set to play South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe as well as Portugal and other European teams this year and their tours will continue in 2010, Ri said.


French Envoy Meets North Korea's Foreign Minister: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A special envoy of French President Nicolas Sarkozy on North Korea met with the socialist country's top diplomat on Nov. 10, the North's media said, in a visit seen as aimed at exploring ways of improving bilateral relations.

   Jack Lang, who arrived in Pyongyang on Nov. 9, met with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, according to a report from the North's Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul.

   The two sides discussed various issues pertaining to the countries' mutual interest, the report said without giving further details.

   France is one of the few countries in the European Union that does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea.

   Lang visited South Korea, Japan and the United States last month and said France was seeking ways of contributing to regional negotiations over the North's nuclear weapons program. The envoy is expected to propose economic aid from the EU on condition of progress in Pyongyang's denuclearization.

   It was not yet known whether Lang would be granted a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il during his five-day trip. The French Socialist Party member and former culture minister is expected to submit a report on his North Korea visit to Sarkozy after his return from Pyongyang on Nov. 13.

   Before departing Beijing's Shoudu Airport for Pyongyang, Lang told reporters he was carrying a "special message" from President Sarkozy and that he was hoping to meet a very important person in North Korea. He added that Sarkozy hopes for a meeting between his envoy and Kim.


North Korea Dismisses Seoul's Corn Aid as 'Narrow-minded'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean media scorned South Korea's offer of 10,000 tons of corn aid as "narrow-minded" on Nov. 10, though Pyongyang continued to withhold an official response to the small-scale assistance proposed weeks earlier.

   The article published by Uriminzokkiri, the North's official Web site, cited critics in the South who have blasted the limited offer worth about US$33 million.

   The South Korean government is "making noise" about the corn offer, which is "pitiful and narrow-minded behavior" that is shameful even to its own citizens, the article said.

   The remarks were the first North Korean response to the restricted aid offer Seoul made on Oct. 26. The absence of an official reply has raised suspicions here that Pyongyang may have been displeased by the limited amount.

   Unification Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said Seoul does not consider the article as an official position from Pyongyang, as it is only a short unsigned commentary.

   "We will continue preparations to send the aid, believing North Korea will accept it," Lee said.

   The offered corn aid is only a fraction of the amount South Korea's previous liberal governments have regularly given over the past decade -- an average 400,000 tons of rice and 300,000 tons of corn annually. Such state-level assistance came to a halt when conservative President Lee Myung-bak took office in Seoul last year, conditioning inter-Korean exchanges on progress in North Korea's denuclearization.