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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 97 (March 11, 2010)
*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 1)

N. Korean Leader Attends Mass Rally Celebrating Vinalon Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended a massive industry-related rally celebrating a large chemical fiber complex last week, an extremely rare step that may reveal the importance he has placed on reviving the North's economy.

   Kim and top aides attended the 100,000-strong rally held in the northeastern city of Hamhung to celebrate the reopening of the synthetic fiber and chemical complex, North Korean media said on March 6. North Korea's Central TV Broadcasting Station and other media reported that Hamhung Square and its adjoining streets were crowded with hundreds of thousands of citizens from all walks of life of the city holding bunches of flowers.

   Celebrating the relaunching of the suspended factory, the February 8 Vinalon Complex, Kim called it "an extra-big event as important as launching a new type A-bomb and represents a great victory of socialism." The complex, which is of key importance in the nation's economic development drive, has turned into a modern chemical center with tremendous capacity, according to North Korean media.

   Kim has never attended such a large, business-related rally, limiting his appearances to military parades or ceremonies welcoming foreign state guests. He has mostly been seen in photos inspecting military units, farms or factories, but hardly ever in front of a large crowd. Video footage was recorded of Kim and other officials attending the event.

   North Korea often organizes such pro-government rallies, forcing citizens to turn out to mark major state events, including the country's launch of a long-range rocket and its recent nuclear test.

   Despite the media report, the North Korean leader's attendance to the mass rally appears aimed at boosting public morale after it was soured by the regime's currency reform. The revaluation disrupted the already troubled North Korean economy, prompting senior officials to apologize and Kim to sack those in charge.

   Kim's attendance in the rally also reflects his strong interest in the Vinalon factory, which was down 16 years earlier, and the emphasis he is putting on the economy. Vinalon, an artificial textile similar to nylon, was invented in North Korea and is used in many of the country's textiles.

   North Korea successfully completed the modernization of the complex within two years and began mass-producing Vinalon belt fiber, Vinalon cotton, agrochemicals, dyestuff and varieties of other chemical products, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

   According to state media, Kim visited the factory twice last month, and sent a thank-you letter to officials and workers involved in the reconstruction. The totalitarian regime also decorated about 2,400 people for their contribution to the factory's reopening.

   A ceremony awarding scientists, technicians and workers at the Vinalon complex took place in Hamhung on March 5. Seventy-four people were awarded the title of labor hero of the DPRK (North Korea) and the gold medal and Order of the National Flag 1st Class, whiled seven others received honorary titles. Orders and medals went to a total of 2,389 people, according to media reports.

   "The trustworthy workers of the complex, tightening their belts during the 'Arduous March,' brought to complex into operation again though it had remained at a standstill for 16 years," Kim was quoted as saying, "hitting the back of the heads of the imperialists hell-bent on applying sanctions against the DPRK in a bid to stifle it and demonstrating that no formidable enemy can ever bring the Korean people to their knees."

   The KCNA also said the factory would play a "big role in radically developing the nation's light industry and agriculture and bringing about a turning point in improving the people's standard of living."

   After the mass rally in Hamhung, a dancing party of youth and students in Hamhung was held in Hamhung Square, according to the report. A performance was given by the South Hamgyong Provincial Art Troupe and national art troupes at the Hamhung Grand Theater on the same day.

   A few days earlier, Kim gave field guidance to the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex located in Chongjin, North Hamgyong Province. He visited the large steel complex in December and early February.

  (END)