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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 93 (February 11, 2010)

Two North Korean Athletes to Attend 2010 Winter Olympics

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Two North Korean athletes will take part in the 2010 Winter Olympics set to open this month in Vancouver, a pro-Pyongyang daily said on Feb. 5.

   Ko Hyon-suk and Ri Song-chol will compete in women's speed skating and men's figure skating, respectively, said Choson Sinbo, a paper run by a group of Koreans in Japan.

   As one of the North's rising sports stars, Ko won both the women's 500-meter and 1,000-meter events of the 3rd Challenger Cup International Speed Skating Tournament held in Germany in March last year.

   Ri took first place in the men's senior individuals in the 2008-2009 Asian Figure Skating Trophy held in Hong Kong last December. He was chosen by North Korea as the country's best figure skater for 2008.

   "The two North Korean players have already entered Canada to warm up," the newspaper said.

   The Vancouver Olympics run until Feb. 28 and will bring together about 5,500 players from 80 countries. A total of 46 South Koreans have qualified to compete in skating, skiing, biathlon and sledding events.


North Korea Frees U.S. Missionary Nabbed for Illegal Entry

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- In an apparent charm offensive against the United States, North Korea on Feb. 6 freed an American missionary who had been detained for illegally crossing its border from China on Christmas Day.

   The release came a day after Pyongyang decided to set free Robert Park, a 28-year-old Christian missionary from Tucson, Arizona, who entered the communist country on Dec. 25 to urge leader Kim Jong-Il to resign for human rights abuses.

   Announcing the decision, the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Park had expressed "sincere repentance" for his actions, which were prompted by "false propaganda" from the West.

   "The relevant organ of the DPRK (North Korea) decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration," according to the KCNA monitored in Seoul.

   The KCNA quoted Park as saying in an interview that he had a "wrong understanding" of human rights conditions in the North because of "the false propaganda made by the West to tarnish its image."

   "I would not have committed such a crime if I had known that the DPRK respects the rights of all the people and guarantees their freedom and they enjoy a happy and stable life," Park was quoted as saying.

   Analysts saw Pyongyang's release of Robert Park as an attempt to improve ties as it pushes for dialogue with Washington, which welcomed it.

   In early January, North Korea called on the U.S. to sign a peace treaty to formerly end the 1950-53 Korean War. South and North Korea remain technically at war as the conflict ended in an armistice agreement.

   In August 2009, two American journalists were freed after over four months of detention. The reporters, who had accidentally crossed into the North while reporting on human trafficking, were brought home after former U.S. President Bill Clinton met with the North Korean leader in Pyongyang.


N. Korea's Ruling Party Issues Calls to Mark Its 65th Anniversary

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's ruling party, which marks its 65th anniversary this year, has issued a set of slogans calling for all-out efforts to build a strong and powerful nation, Pyongyang's official media said on Feb. 6.

   The anniversary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) falls on Oct. 10, and the socialist country is committed to building "a Kangsong Taeguk (great, prosperous and powerful nation)" in 2012, the birth centennial of its late founder Kim Il-sung.

   "The Central Committee and the Central Military Commission of the WPK expressed firm belief that all the Party members, servicepersons and people will intensify the drive for a great revolutionary surge on all fronts," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The calls stress that the country is faced with vast tasks this year but is sure to win a shining victory in the on-going sweeping campaign and for people to more loudly shout "hurrah for socialism," according to the KCNA.

   "It is the greatest cause in the nation's history for perpetuating the memory of President Kim Il-sung to glorify his country as a great prosperous and powerful nation," the report said.

   The joint calls, which total approximately 240, deal with 12 main categories, including solidarity for North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who heads the National Defense Commission, the socialist country's top political body.

   Of the total slogans, some 120 are related with the economy, which analysts say reconfirms North Korea's all-out efforts to revive its economy hit by internal problems as well as international sanctions.

   The joint calls offer the WPK's policy direction at critical times and serve as an internal propaganda tool used to mobilize its residents. This year marks the 13th time the WPK has announced joint calls since its inaugural issuance in 1954.


U.N. Special Envoy Arrives in Pyongyang: N. Korean Broadcaster

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A special envoy of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Feb. 9, the North's official media reported, on an apparent mission to try to reopen the stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

   Lynn Pascoe and his attendants were greeted by the chief of the United Nations Development Program's office in North Korea after landing at a Pyongyang airport, according to a brief report by Radio Pyongyang, monitored in Seoul.

   The radio station, however, failed to mention the name of the U.N. chief who sent the special delegation.

   Late in the day, North Korea's Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun met the special envoy and his party at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang, the (North) Korean Central News Agency said. But the agency did not elaborate on what issues were discussed.

   Pascoe, who is to stay in Pyongyang till Feb. 12, was widely expected to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and other ranking officials to talk about ways to resume the six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs.

   The envisioned meeting, which comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to coax Pyongyang back into the disarmament forum, will be the U.N.'s first bilateral talks with the socialist country since 2004.

   North Korea walked away from the six-party talks in April 2009 in protest over a U.N. Security Council statement denouncing its rocket launch. The negotiations bring together the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   Pascoe, 66, a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, arrived in Seoul on Feb. 6 ahead of his four-day trip to Pyongyang.


N. Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Revisits Synthetic Fiber Plant

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il again visited the country's leading synthetic fiber plant on its east coast, Pyongyang's official media said on Feb. 9, a trip widely seen as aimed at trumpeting his active efforts to improve the living standards of the North's people.

   In a dispatch monitored in Seoul, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Kim's visit to the modernized February 8 Vinalon Complex, where he watched vinalon cotton being churned out in an endless stream.

   The trip came a day after the KCNA said the North Korean leader gave field guidance to the fiber plant located in Hamhung, in South Hamgyong Province. As is customary, the KCNA failed to give the date of Kim's visit.

   "It has now become possible to supply more quality vinalon fabric to the (North) Korean people as desired by President Kim Il-sung," Kim was quoted as saying. "The start of mass production of vinalon is another great victory won by the (North) Korean people in building a thriving nation."

   Vinalon is a synthetic fiber, made from polyvinyl alcohol using anthracite and limestone as raw materials.

   Kim emphasized that in order to send greater quantities of clothing material to the people, it is necessary to operate the newly-built vinalon processes at full capacity with a view to keeping production going at a high rate, the KCNA said.

   Kim was accompanied by Premier Kim Yong-Il, Thae Jong-su, chief secretary of the South Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-thaek, department directors of the WPK Central Committee, it added.

   The plant, with an annual capacity of 50,000 tons, was built in 1961. Its operations had been suspended over the past 10 years due to its aged equipment and a dearth of raw materials. It came into operation again following the recent completion of a modernization project.