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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 90 (January 21, 2010)

North Korea Names Kim Yong-il as Party's Department Chief

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to have named a new head of the International Affairs Department of the North's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the North's official media, said Kim Yong-il, director of the International Affairs Department of the Workers' Party Central Committee, attended a New Year's reception for staff members of the Chinese Embassy held on Jan. 14 at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang.

   The position has reportedly been vacant since early 2007, when Kim Yang-gon, the former head of the department, took the post of department director on inter-Korean relations in the Workers' Party.

   The new director seems to be serving in two posts simultaneously. "The director of the International Affairs Department referred to in a report aired by the KCNA and Kim Yong-il, vice foreign minister of North Korea, seem to be one and the same person," said the government official, who asked not to be identified.

   The International Affairs Department mainly handles relations between North Korea and China, while the Foreign Ministry is in charge of relations with foreign countries.


North Korea Reports on Haiti Earthquake

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean media have released reports on the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in mid-January that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and plunged the Caribbean nation into a state of anarchy.

   Four days after the magnitude 7.0 temblor struck the impoverished nation, the North's Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station issued a report on Jan. 16, citing the massive damage and loss of life.

   "The temblor leveled parliament and government buildings, private homes and other public offices, cutting out electricity and disrupting communications and transportation," the report said.

   The earthquake was the most powerful one ever recorded in the area, it reported, adding the death toll will likely continue to climb and that emergency rescue efforts are under way.

   Earlier on Jan. 14, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the North's Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), sent a message of sympathy to Rene Preval, president of Haiti.

   "Kim expressed his hope that the president and the government of Haiti will overcome the aftermath of the disaster as early as possible and return the lives of survivors back to normal," the KCNA said.


Rodong Sinmun Calls for Fight against 'Internal Enemies'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Rodong Sinmun, the organ of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, reported on Jan. 18 that a fierce struggle should be waged against class enemies within the socialist society.

   "In order to defend and successfully advance socialism, it is necessary to wage an uncompromising struggle against the anti-socialist moves," said the report carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   Defining all those who try to destabilize the socialist society as the enemies of socialism, the paper said, "One should mercilessly fight the enemies of socialism and class enemies without the slightest compromise."

   Such targets include remnants of the upper classes who, the paper claimed, harbor antipathy towards the socialist system, as well as those who work hard overtly and covertly to bring down the socialist system.

   "Only when a fierce struggle is waged against them is it possible to protect and reinforce the position of socialism," the newspaper said.

   It further noted the importance of struggling against allies and "stooges of the imperialists."


N. Korea Says Peace Treaty to Fast-track Denuclearization

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Concluding a peace treaty between North Korea and the United States will serve as a catalyst for defusing hostile relations between the two sides and quickly denuclearzing the Korean Peninsula, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party alleged on Jan. 19.

   The claim by Rodong Sinmun and carried by the Korean Central News Agency comes eight days after Pyongyang proposed talks with Washington on replacing the Korean War armistice with a peace treaty.

   "When North Korea and the U.S. actively try to remove mutual distrust and create a peaceful environment, a range of talks could be held without a hitch, with the issue of denuclearization likely to be fruitfully solved," the paper said in a commentary.

   The DPRK's proposal for concluding a peace treaty is a reasonable way for comprehensively and fully implementing the September 19 Joint Statement, according to the newspaper. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

   The statement, which was signed in 2005 by the participants in the six-party talks, is aimed at resolving the North Korean nuclear problem peacefully. The negotiations group the Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   "The above-said proposal clearly indicates a road map for realizing peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at the earliest date," it said.

   South and North Korea remain technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. Signatories to the armistice are the U.S., China, and North Korea.


Slim, Flat-screen TVs Popular among Citizens in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Slim and flat-screen television sets produced in North Korea are gaining popularity among shoppers in Pyongyang, the socialist country's capital, a pro-North Korean newspaper based in Tokyo reported on Jan. 20.

   "People carrying the packaging boxes of two TV brands produced at Aeguk (Patriotic) Color Television Assembly Factory have often been on the streets of Pyongyang from the start of the New Year," said Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang daily for the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

   On Jan. 1, 155 TV sets were sold at Pyongyang Department Store No. 1 and as many as 1,000 TVs were sold at another department store in the capital city," the daily said on its Web site.

   "Our factory has entered into a phase of mass production to meet growing demand from residents," the newspaper quoted the factory's manager as saying.

   Although the factory had difficulty turning out products in the late 1990s, it set up a new conveyor-belt system in 2009, tripling its output to an annual capacity of 300,000 units per year, it said.

   Aeguk Color Television Assembly Factory started operations in April 1992, with financial help from pro-Pyongyang Koreans residing in Japan.


N. Korea to Launch State Bank to Fund Development Projects

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea plans to launch a state bank to fund its development projects, its official media reported on Jan. 20, in the latest move by the socialist state to revive its broken economy and draw foreign investment.

   The State Development Bank, a project ordered by the North's highest political body, the National Defense Commission (NDC) "is to provide investment on major projects to be carried out according to state policy," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The report did not elaborate on the projects, but said the bank would be "equipped with advanced banking rules and systems needed for transactions with international monetary organizations and commercial banks."

   The plan for the bank came after the North said Jan. 5 it has upgraded the status of Rason, a free trade zone near the border with China and Russia, to that of a special city to boost foreign trade.

   It also came a few months after the country went ahead with the first redenomination of its currency in 17 years in an apparent effort to tighten state control on inflation and market activities.

   The KCNA said the North's top party official in charge of inter-Korean relations was elected on Jan. 20 to head the board of directors of an investment group that would provide funding for the bank.

   Kim Yang-gon will be assisted by Pak Chol-su, "a Korean in China" who will serve as "permanent deputy director-general and president" of the Korea Taepung International Investment Group, it said.

   The bank will be based in Pyongyang, the KCNA said, while seven people from the NDC, which is headed by leader Kim Jong-il, the Cabinet and other top government bodies, will make up the board for the group. The report, monitored in Seoul, did not give a timetable for the establishment of the bank.

   The board, which held its first meeting at a hotel in Pyongyang earlier in the day, discussed "a resolution on starting the operation of a preparatory committee for establishment of the State Development Bank," it said.