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2009/12/17 11:32 KST
NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 85 (December 17, 2009)


N. Korean Leader Continues Provincial Inspection Tour

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has visited several factories in a northern town, state media said on Dec. 11, part of a spate of provincial tours he has made amid high-profile diplomacy in Pyongyang.

   The North's top leader was apparently in Kanggye Province during a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy Stephen Bosworth to the capital earlier this week for talks on restarting a multilateral forum on the country's nuclear program. Bosworth said after returning to Seoul on Dec. 10 he did not meet with Kim.

   The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim visited the Jangjagang Machine Tool Factory, the Kanggye Knitting Mill and the Kanggye Wine Factory in the city of Kanggye, a report that followed his visits to tractor and cattle farms in the same town a day earlier.

   At the knitting mill, Kim "stressed the need to steadily boost production, as solving the issue of clothing is as important as settling the food problem," the report said.

   Kim also praised workers at the wine factory for enhancing productivity through technical innovation and called on them to also begin production of beer and raw rice wine, it said. As usual, the report did not say when such visits took place.

   His entourage was composed of the same members as the last one reported on Dec. 10: Workers' Party secretary Kim Ki-nam and party department directors Pak Nam-gi, Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-thaek. Kim Kyong-hui is the leader's only sister, and Jang is her husband. The pair are believed to be aiding the senior Kim's alleged power transfer to his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

   Later on Dec. 11, the KCNA said Kim Jong-il provided on-the-spot guidance to the updated Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory. "He praised the workers of the factory for having completed the updating by their own efforts in a short span of time," the agency added.


North Korea Slams Seoul for DMZ Eco, Peace Belt Plan

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean weekly newspaper has lambasted South Korea for trying to create an eco-tour and peace belt along the demilitarized zone (DMZ), saying "it is a plot to exploit the DMZ as a source of moneymaking, the North's official Web site said on Dec. 13.

   "It is a worthless idea devised by shameless separatists who don't have the slightest pride in the Korean people. Developing the DMZ, the symbol of national division and military confrontation, for commercial purposes is anti-national, anti-unification conduct," the weekly newspaper, Tongil Sinbo, reported in its Dec. 12 edition, according to Uriminzokkiri.

   South Korea's conservative authorities harbor an "impure" purpose of further stepping up an anti-North Korean campaign and stoking inter-Korean confrontation, the weekly newspaper was quoted as claiming.

   On Dec. 2, Seoul's Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced a plan to create a world-class eco-tour and peace belt along the DMZ, a strip of land separating the Koreas and running across the Korean Peninsula.

   South Korea will push to build a cross-country bicycle path along the 495-kilometer-long DMZ before hosting an international mountain bike championship there, and an international peace park within the DMZ, according to the plan.

   The DMZ serves as a buffer zone between South and North Korea which are still in a technical state of war, having only signed an armistice at the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.


N. Korea Builds Eco-farm As Part of 'Green Growth' Drive

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has built an integrated, eco-friendly farm where fish and livestock can be raised with no fuel, state media said on Dec. 15, in the country's latest pitch for "green growth."

   A multi-purpose solar greenhouse, built by the Natural Energy Development and Use Center, covers a vegetable gardening area, a livestock pen, a methane fermentation tank and a fish farm, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

   By wisely combining the elements of production, consumption and degradation, this greenhouse achieves "high economic efficiency and is completely free of environmental pollution," the report claimed.

   By-products of vegetables are fed to pigs, and methane gas from their excrement is used as energy to process livestock feed and keep the greenhouse warm, it said. Liquid manure created in the process becomes the feed for fish or is used as extra fertilizer.

   At the front of the greenhouse is a fish farm, where solar energy is saved during daytime and emits heat at night to keep the temperature higher than 10 Celsius degrees even in the winter, the report said.

   In sync with the global fight against climate change, North Korea has shown great interest in low-carbon, green growth. Chollima, a North Korean monthly magazine, said in its November edition, "Now is the golden opportunity to transform the world economy into a low-carbon economy."

   North Korea joined the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and enacted a domestic environmental law to tackle the destruction of the ozone layer in 2005.


U.S. Scientists Leave Pyongyang After Talks on Academic Cooperation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A group of American scientists wrapped up a five-day trip to North Korea aimed at fostering bilateral cooperation in science research, Pyongyang's media said on Dec. 15.

   The six-member delegation from the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS), led by Peter Agre, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, traveled to Pyongyang to explore future opportunities for collaborative research activities in various fields.

   The U.S. team "left Pyongyang for home by air on Dec. 15 after discussing the matter of cooperation and exchange in the field of scientific research," the Korean Central News Agency said. It gave no further information.

   Agre, director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and president of the AAAS, said earlier that his delegation would meet with scientists, university and science policy officials in the North. He also planned to give a lecture for North Korean officials and students at the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.

   The visit coincided with a trip last week by U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy, Stephen Bosworth, who later said Washington and Pyongyang reached a "common understanding" on the need to resume a multilateral forum on ending the North's nuclear program.

   Another U.S. delegation visiting North Korea, consisting of businessmen, met with the North's Vice Premier Ro Tu-chol on Dec. 15, state media said in a one-sentence dispatch. The team from the Business Executives for National Security, a non-partisan Washington-based organization led by Charles Boyd, a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general, arrived in Pyongyang a day earlier.


N. Korean Official Calls for Compatriots' Unification Efforts

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean official has called on Koreans both at home and abroad to play their part in helping reunify the divided peninsula, Pyongyang's official media said on Dec. 15.

   "All people on the Korean Peninsula and overseas compatriots should make their distinctive contributions to the unification of the fatherland," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Yang Hyong-sop, vice-president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, as saying.

   Putting aside ideology, belief, political views and social class, the peoples of North and South Korea should stand together more strongly to help facilitate national unification, the people's long-cherished wish, Yang told a national meeting to mark the 50th anniversary of the repatriation of Koreans from Japan.

   Touching on the anniversary, Yang said "it was a historical event which brought about a radical turn in the destiny of overseas compatriots and the history of the Juche-oriented overseas compatriots' movement that the first repatriation ship carrying Koreans from Japan dropped its anchor at Chongjin Port in 1959," according to the KCNA.

   On Dec. 16, 1959, the first 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.

   Present at the national meeting included Kim Jung-rin, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, Kwak Pom-gi, vice premier of the Cabinet, and leading officials of working people's organizations, the KCNA said.


N. Korea Enacts New Economic Laws Following Currency Change

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has established a set of new economic laws, including regulations on property, Pyongyang's state media reported on Dec. 16, in what appears to be an attempt to tighten control after an unpopular currency reform.

   In a surprise move, North Korea redenominated its currency on Nov. 30, saying the currency revamp is intended to rein in soaring inflation, regulate the free market and strengthen the socialist order.

   "The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly has newly adopted and announced a set of laws in several categories," the (North) Korean Central News Agency said. These are a real estate management law, a law on the standard of commodities consumption and a law on the import of general facilities, the report said.

   The real estate law stipulates principles governing the registration and utilization of property and the payments for its use, it said. North Korea has set up rental fees for government-owned land and collected them from individual users since 2006.

   The commodity consumption law lays out "legal requirements that should be observed in the consumption of commodities," the report said. Given the chronic shortage of commodities in North Korea, the law appears to be aimed at putting individuals' and organizations' consumption under strong scrutiny so as to curb price hikes.

   The report said the law on the import of facilities covers the introduction of facilities for factories, schools hospitals, ships and broadcasting stations, stipulating requirements for planning, signing contracts, inspections, assembly work and trial runs.

   "The newly established laws have built a solid legal foundation to enhance the socio-economic effects of (utilizing) real estate," the report said, and they will also boost the people's economy "by lowering the levels of commodity consumption."

   North Korea's near-moribund economy is reportedly reeling from the drastic currency change that issued new banknotes at the exchange rate of 100 to one. It initially set a cap on the amount of new bills allowed for exchange per household, but a growing backlash from middle-class people and merchants was prompting the government to frequently change the limit, according to reports from aid groups.