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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 91 (January 28, 2010)

S. Korean Group to Ship Milk to N. Korea Monthly

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean humanitarian group said Jan. 22 that it plans to send a monthly shipment of milk to North Korea -- enough to feed more than 40,000 children in the impoverished country.

   In line with the plan, the private organization said the first shipment of 20,000 cartons of sterilized milk and 500 cans of powdered milk were shipped from Incheon, west of Seoul, to arrive in the North Korean port of Nampho the same day.

   According to the group, "Share Together Society," a carton contains 200 milliliters of sterilized milk, with each can holding 800ml of powdered milk.

   "We plan to send two to three shipments of sterilized and powdered milk to North Korea each month," said the aid group funded by civic organizations, companies and individuals in capitalist South Korea.

   It is the first time for a private group to send milk to North Korea periodically, though South Korean civic organizations have sporadically provided milk for North Korean children, Share Together Society said.

   The milk will be fed to children aged four and under in day nurseries in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and the border town of Kaesong, the organization said.


N. Korea Fires Artillery Into Waters Near Disputed Sea Border

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired artillery into waters near the disputed inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea on Jan. 27, prompting South Korea to respond with warning shots and raising tension on the Korean Peninsula.

   According to Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), the North fired about 30 rounds of artillery into waters near the Northern Limit Line (NLL), and the South Korean navy immediately responded by firing 100 warning shots.

   "We confirmed North Korea's firing of several artillery shells, but they did not cross the NLL. We are on high military alert," Park Sung-woo of Seoul's JCS said, adding it continued for about 70 minutes from 9:05 a.m. No casualties or damage were reported.
Hours after the exchange of fire, North Korea said firing artillery off its west coast is part of an annual military exercise and that the drill will continue.

   "Artillery units of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) staged an annual artillery live shell firing drill in waters of the West Sea of Korea Jan. 27 morning," the General Staff of the KPA said.

   "Such firing will go on in the same waters in the future," it said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

   The artillery exchange came two days after the North declared the waters near the South's northernmost islands of Baeknyeong and Daecheong as no-sail zones, raising tensions after indicating renewed will to return to the multinational negotiations over its nuclear disarmament.

   Seoul's military officials said on Jan. 26 that the no-sail zones will remain in place until March 29.

   The no-sail zones overlap the NLL, the officials said. The NLL is the de facto inter-Korean maritime border drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Pyongyang has never recognized the decades-old NLL, claiming it is unfair and void.
The socialist state unilaterally set a peacetime firing zone in December last year in an area just south of the NLL. The two Koreas engaged in a brief naval clash on Nov. 13. They remain technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce.

   The United States on Jan. 27 denounced North Korea for escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula by firing artillery shells along the disputed western sea border.

   "The declaration by North Korea of a no-sail zone and the live firing of artillery are provocative actions and as such are not helpful," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

   Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell also called on both Koreas to show restraint. "Although this is a bilateral issue, fundamentally, between the North and the South, we clearly are discouraging any further acts of aggression which would in any way increase the tensions along this historically disputed boundary area," Morrell said. "So we want to see everybody exercise restraint as they deal with this issue."


S. Koreans Asked to Wear Masks in Industrial Zone in N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is requiring South Koreans to wear masks when they enter an industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong in an effort to stem the spread of influenza A (H1N1) from the South, officials in Seoul said Jan. 26.

   Starting Jan. 16, the North began to ask the South Koreans entering the complex to wear masks because two or three South Koreans residing inside the complex were confirmed to have been infected with the virus and returned to the South earlier this month, according to the officials.

   Citing sources from the World Health Organization, Radio Free Asia reported Jan. 26 that three North Koreans living in Kaesong, just north of the western section of the inter-Korean border, were confirmed as infected with the H1N1 virus.

   Some 110 South Korean firms operate at the Kaesong complex, which employs about 42,000 North Korean workers producing labor-intensive goods such as clothing and kitchenware. The project is one of the most symbolic outcomes of the first summit between the divided countries in 2000.

   Medical experts say wearing masks does not offer complete protection against viruses that can be transmitted through the air, but could provide some help in curbing the spread of disease.

   South Korea, meanwhile, said Jan. 26 it has started vaccinating North Koreans who work at an inter-Korean industrial complex near the border against the influenza A virus.

   The first batch of flu shots will be given to around 1,500 workers at the complex, according to the health ministry and the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

   About 300 North Koreans who work closely with South Koreans will be the first to receive the vaccine. Another 40,000 North Koreans who work in factories run by the South will be inoculated in the coming weeks, according to Seoul's health authorities.

   The North also accepted a South Korean shipment of anti-viral medicine late last year, said the officials.