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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 98 (March 18, 2010)

North Korea Rejects Role of U.N. Rights Rapporteur

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on March 13 it does not recognize the legitimacy of the United Nations' special envoy on the communist state's human rights, arguing that the system is a U.S. scheme to undermine its prestige.

   Under a 2004 U.N. mandate, Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai law professor, has been working as a special rapporteur on North Korean human rights. The mandate is due to end at the end of June.

   In a report monitored in Seoul, the North's Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) declared that Pyongyang will never recognize the "ghost-like" special rapporteur on its human rights, insisting that the system is a "leftover of the already defunct" U.N. committee on human rights.

   The report comes as the U.N. human rights council is scheduled to convene a meeting next week to review and adopt a report on its latest assessment on the North's human rights conditions and most likely re-endorse the role of the special rapporteur.

   The KCNA charged the United States, through the U.N. special rapporteur, with trying to "politicize the human rights issue" internationally.

   A U.N. General Assembly committee in November of last year blasted North Korea, citing its alleged "torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading punishments" along with public executions.

   In January, Muntarbhorn also described human rights conditions in North Korea as "extremely grave," disclosing that the country has toughened measures to punish those caught trying to flee the country.


North Korean Leader Stresses Need for Organic Farming

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il stressed the importance of organic farming during a visit to a cooperative farm south of the country's capital, state media reported on March 13.

   The Thrice Three-Revolution Red Flag Migok Cooperative Farm in Sariwon city, south of Pyongyang, is known to grow rice by taking advantage of mud snails without resorting to agrochemicals.

   "The present to do organic farming without using chemical fertilizers and herbicide. It is necessary to actively apply organic and other new farming methods," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying.

   As is customary, the KCNA failed to provide when the North Korean leader made the trip.

   Underscoring the need for all farms to round off the method and widely apply it, Kim said the method of manuring and cultivating paddy fields by use of mud snails is advantageous for boosting the rice yield, according to the report.

   He met with heads of work teams and sub-work teams who distinguished themselves in grain production and gave a warm pep talk to them, the KCNA said.

   "He called upon the whole country and all the people to continue focusing all efforts on farming in order to bring about a decisive turn in agricultural production," the KCNA said.

   Kim was accompanied by Choe Ryong-hae, chief secretary of the North Hwanghae Provincial Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea, and department directors Kim Kyong-hui and Jang Song-thaek, according to the KCNA.


N. Korean Weekly Says Pyongyang's Warning on Tour Programs Final

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korea weekly has reported that Pyongyang's recent announcement on suspended tour programs to the socialist country is a final warning to the South Korean authorities, the North's official Web site said on March 14.

   In a statement on March 4, the North's Asia-Pacific Peace Committee claimed that Seoul is effectively blocking South Koreans from visiting the scenic Mt. Kumgang on the east coast and Kaesong, the ancient capital of the Koryo Dynasty (A.D. 918-1392), warning it could revoke all deals covering inter-Korean tours.

   "The statement is tantamount to an ultimatum. The Seoul government should pay heed to the statement if it is wiling to resume the tour programs in earnest and doesn't want inter-Korean relations to head for a collision course, Tongil Sinbo reported in its March 13 edition, according to Uriminzokkiri.

   South Korean officials' comments following the statement show that "they have not given up their wrong attitude and don't seem to realize the seriousness of the situation, which is a real folly," Tongil Sinbo said.

   In the statement, a committee spokesman warned the North could cancel contracts with South Korea's Hyundai Asan, which has organized the tours, and freeze real estate and other assets. He did not go into further detail.

   Tours to Mt. Kumgang were suspended in July 2008 when a South Korean female tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard after straying into an off-limits area. visits to Kaesong were stopped in December of the same year.

   In early February, officials from South and North Korea met in Kaesong to discuss the resumption of the stalled tours, but failed to reach agreement.

   Seoul demands an official apology for the shooting death of a female South Korean tourist in July 2008 and a pledge that such an incident will not occur in the future, while saying a formal investigation must be carried out to determine why the shooting occurred. The North has spurned the South Korean demand.


N. Korean University Heads Discuss Ways of Nurturing Science Talent

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The heads of North Korean universities and provincial education committees held a national meeting to discuss ways of educating scientists and engineers, according to a North Korean weekly obtained on March 15.

   The weekly, called "Education Newspaper," said in its latest Feb. 25 edition that "the meeting was organized to make a quantum leap in the nurturing of talent by improving education material and methods continuously and boosting the quality of teachers."

   In a report to the meeting, North Korea's Vice Education Minister Jon Kuk-man said that the socialist country's education sector faces a "heavy and honorable task of raising its education to a world level of nurturing talented scientists and engineers so that they may contribute to build a prosperous and powerful nation."

   North Korea is committed to building "a Kangsong Taeguk (great, prosperous and powerful nation)" in 2012, the birth centennial of its late founder Kim Il-sung.

   Jon further said North Korea pushed ahead with various policy programs to theorize the education of politics and ideology, improve teaching methods in the information age and promote foreign-language abilities of university students.

   The weekly also said that action programs for implementing the education-sector tasks put forward by a joint New-Year editorial for 2010 were also reported to the meeting.

   The editorial, jointly issued by the North's ruling party, army and youth military on Jan. 1 each year, is scrutinized by outside observers as it is considered a blueprint for the isolated state's policy goals for the coming year.