NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 83 (December 3, 2009) |
*** NEWS IN BRIEF
North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Visits Naval Command
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has visited a naval command to boost morale, state media said on Nov. 27, on a tour following an inter-Korean skirmish along the Yellow Sea border earlier November.
The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim viewed the Command of (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Navy Combined Unit 587 and gave instructions to further strengthen the country's naval force.
As is customary with North Korean reports, the dispatch did not disclose the location of the military unit or the date of Kim's visit. But the unit appears to be stationed in the southwestern port of Nampho, based on a 2003 North Korean media report on Kim's visit to the same unit that attached responses by a local official in Nampho.
"Our socialist country is impregnable as these invincible ranks have reliably defended its seas," Kim was quoted by the report as saying.
"The navy is of important significance in the DPRK (North Korea) as it is seabound on three sides," Kim said.
Kim also inspected entertainment and educational facilities in the unit, the report said. Kim later held a photo session with the unit's sailors, the report said.
He was accompanied by the country's military top brass, including Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission; Kim Jong-gak, first-vice director of the KPA General Political Bureau; Ri Yong-ho, chief of the KPA General Staff; and KPA Generals Hyon Chol-hae and Ri Myong-su.
The navies of the Koreas exchanged gunfire on Nov. 10 after a North Korean patrol boat crossed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto border in the Yellow Sea.
No South Korean soldiers were wounded, but the North Korean boat retreated in flames, possibly with casualties, according to the South's military authorities.
Two days later, the KCNA said that Kim Jong-il has visited the goat farm run by the Seoul Ryokyongsu 105 Guards Tank Division of the KPA and the cotton farm under the KPA Unit 1596, and encouraged mass production to provide for soldiers and ordinary citizens.
And also, the KCNA on Nov. 30 said that Kim Jong-il has called for strict anti-epidemic measures during his latest visit to the Sokjong Pig Farm that was newly constructed outside Pyongyang.
North Korea Renews Claim to Nuclear State Status
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea reasserted on Nov. 27 it is an internationally recognized nuclear-armed state, citing a U.S. science magazine, a claim denied by the outside world.
"The Federation of American Scientists of the United States has confirmed (North) Korea as a nuclear weapon state," the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief dispatch.
The report said the non-profit organization's November issue listed the North among the nine countries that possess atomic weapons.
The U.S. and other countries have refused to recognize North Korea as nuclear state to avoid lending legitimacy to its atomic weapons program.
Earlier this month, North Korea claimed it has completed extracting plutonium from 8,000 spent fuel rods it has at its main nuclear facility. Experts say the amount would be enough to make one nuclear bomb.
North Korea withdrew from a six-nation disarmament talks in April in protest of punitive U.N. resolutions adopted after its long-range rocket test.
But the country's leader, Kim Jong-il, told Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during his August visit that Pyongyang could return to the six-nation talks depending on progress in bilateral dialogue with Washington.
The six-nation forum aimed at terminating the North's nuclear drive also involves South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
N.K. Establishes New Organization on Koreans Who Returned from Japan
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has established a new organization under its Cabinet that will exclusively handle the affairs of Koreans who have returned or will be returning to their homeland from Japan, it was belatedly found on Nov. 27.
Called the Bureau of Reception Business of Korean Compatriots in Japan, the organization was newly set up in September after being separated from the Bureau of Reception Business of Overseas Compatriots, according to a report by a newspaper published in Japan.
The newly launched organization will deal with the affairs of Korean residents in Japan who have already returned to the North or will visit or permanently return to North Korea, reported Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper published by the Chongryon or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan in an interview with its bureau chief Hwang To-sik.
The current overseas compatriots bureau will handle the affairs of overseas Koreans other than those living in Japan.
North Korea first established a committee in October 1959 for the repatriation of Korean residents in Japan to the North. The committee was later changed to a bureau under the Cabinet organization in 1962.
The organization expanded to the general bureau the next year as the number of Korean compatriots returning from Japan increased sharply every year.
As the number of Koreans returning to the North from Japan decreased later, the name of the general bureau was changed to the bureau that began to cover affairs on North Korea visit by all overseas Koreans.
For the first time in December 1959, a group of more than 700 North Koreans returned to the North aboard a North Korean passenger ship, Mangyongbong, after spending hard lives in Japan before and after World War II. Most of the North Koreans were forcibly taken to Japan when Korea was under the Japanese colonial rule for hard labor at ammunition factories and minings during the war.
The North continued the repatriation of North Koreans from Japan until the early 1980s, with the number of the Koreans permanently returning from Japan reaching about 100,000.
N. Korea Says Time for Seoul to Change for Better Ties
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Nov. 28 it is now up to South Korea to take steps to thaw their chilled relations, claiming it has done all it can.
Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper published by the ruling Workers' Party, claimed the Seoul government has not done even a "little bit" to help improve cross-border ties.
"If the South Korean government is even a bit interested in North-South relations, it will naturally have to show a positive reaction to our fair actions," the newspaper said, according to a report by Uriminzokkiri, the North's official Web site.
"We have done everything we were supposed to for the improvement of North-South relations and now it is time for the South Korean government to reply," the report said.
The article mimicked South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's repeated calls on Pyongyang to fundamentally change its stance toward the South and the international community, saying no country or organization will work with the North unless it first denuclearizes.
In a nationally televised debate broadcast here on Nov. 27, Lee said he was willing to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at any time but only if such a meeting would help convince the North to give up its nuclear program and improve inter-Korean relations.
North Korea Criticizes Maritime Blockade at IMO Meeting
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea argued in a recent U.N. agency meeting that maritime blockades by "certain" countries are threatening the freedom of navigation, the North's media said Nov. 30, in what appeared to be criticism targeting the U.S.
North Korea had sent a delegation, led by Ko Nung-du, to the 26th general assembly of the International Maritime Organization held in London on Nov. 27.
"Economic sanctions and blockades enforced by certain countries on others with political reasons have spawned incidents that are detrimental to the free navigation of container ships that have peaceful purposes and the safety of their crew, generating grave concerns to the international community," Ko was quoted by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying in the assembly.
Ko's argument appeared to be a complaint against a July incident, in which the U.S. Navy tracked a North Korean ship bound for Myanmar, the Kang Nam 1, on suspicion of carrying illicit weapons, eventually causing it to turn back home.
The Kang Nam was the first to be monitored under a U.N. resolution aimed at preventing the North from shipping nuclear materials. The resolution was adopted after the North's second nuclear test in May.
"In international maritime affairs, such behavior that infringes on other nations' sovereignty in defiance of international laws and the U.N. Charter should never be allowed," Ko said.
The chief delegate also said North Korea supports international efforts to fight climate change and maritime hijacking. Somali pirates reportedly hijacked a chemical tanker named the MV Theresa with 28 North Koreans on board earlier this month and were still holding them.
The North signed many treaties on the protection of the maritime environment and the navigational safety, Ko said. He did not name those treaties in detail.
North Korea joined the International Maritime Organization headquartered in Britain in 1986. Before it launched a long-range rocket in April, Pyongyang informed the U.N. agency of the time and coordinates of the Kwangmyongsong-1.
N. Korea to Continue Paying State Attention for Preventing AIDS
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has conducted brisk activities to prevent HIV/AIDS in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the North official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Dec. 1.
Observing World AIDS Day, the North held an event at the People's Palace of Culture in Pyongyang with government officials, national institutions and working people's organizations attending, the KCNA said. Officials in the field of public health in Pyongyang and staff members of missions of international organizations were also present.
Ri Pong-hun, vice minister of Public Health, referred to the fact that brisk observation, control activities and hygienic information service are under way in the North to prevent AIDS. He stressed that the DPRK would continue paying state attention to the work for preventing AIDS in close collaboration with the WHO and other international organizations, according to the news agency.
Speeches were made at the event by Sarveshwar Puri, representative of the WHO stationed to Pyongyang, and Finn Jarle Rode, head of the delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies active in the DPRK.
North Korean health officials and media have claimed that there has not been a single case of AIDS in the North. The WHO also said there has not been any report of AIDS in North Korea.
Pyongyang Blasts Seoul's Idea of Non-cash Payments to N.K. Tour Programs
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean newspaper harshly criticized South Korea's suggestion that payment to the Mt. Kumgang tour programs be made by other means than cash, terming the South Korean proposal the "hysteria of lunatics."
Seoul is considering handing out non-cash payments to North Korea for allowing tour programs in the North, seeking to raise transactional transparency in light of U.N. sanctions imposed on the North for its nuclear tests in May, senior officials in Seoul said Nov. 27.
Minju Joson, a North Korean Cabinet newspaper, said Dec. 1 that the South Korean Unification Ministry is precipitating their self-destruction, claiming that it is forcing Hyundai to pay for the tour of Mt. Kumgang in kind, not in cash. The newspaper dismissed Seoul's move as the "hysteria of lunatics hell-bent on confrontation with compatriots."
"The world knows no country where tours are paid in kind," the commentary notes, "and it clearly indicates they are nothing but dregs of history who should have lived in the era of feudalism when barter trade prevailed," according to the newspaper.
The paper claimed that Seoul's ulterior motive is to block the tour of Mt. Kumgang under any pretext and use it as means of stoking confrontation with compatriots in case the tour is resumed.
North Korea, currently under U.N. financial sanctions for its nuclear and missile tests in spring, has been nudging the South to reopen cross-border tours to its Mt. Kumgang resort.
Seoul suspended the program, a major source of dollars for the cash-strapped country, after a tourist was shot and killed in July last year after wandering into a restricted military zone. The government has not yet announced a decision on whether it will resume the program.
The Mt. Kumgang tours have earned the North US$487 million in tour fees since they began in 1998. More than 1.9 million South Koreans have visited the picturesque mountain on North Korea's southeast coast.