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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 101 (April 8, 2010)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea Inoculates 98 Pct of Newborns against Tuberculosis

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea currently vaccinates 98 percent of newborn babies in the country against tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease, a Pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Tokyo said on April 3.

   In line with a campaign by the World Health Organization (WHO) to make the world tuberculosis-free, North Korea is undertaking various projects to boost the campaign, Choson Sinbo reported.

   "Medical staff at maternity clinics in Pyongyang have adopted a system under which newborns get vaccines against tuberculosis within 24 hours after being born," the newspaper said.

   North Korea's Health Ministry operates a monitoring and supervisory system in order to keep tabs on how drugs are administered to tuberculosis patients, Choson Sinbo said, adding sending medical workers to India to receive related eduction.

   In a report released on March 30, WHO estimated that tuberculosis affects 334 people per 100,000 residents in North Korea each year, forecasting about 90,000 people will likely be infected with the disease this year.

   North Korea reportedly plans to dedicate a national tuberculosis research laboratory in Pyongyang in early May, which is under construction with the help of Standford University and a U.S. civic group. It will be North Korea's first diagnostic laboratory to test drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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N. Korea Introduces Graduation Credits at Kimchaek University

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has introduced a "graduation credit system" for the Kimchaek University of Technology, the North's top college in science and engineering, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan reported on April 5.

   North Korean universities are known to allow students to graduate if they pass tests in each subject, instead of requiring them to obtain a certain amount of credits. Repeaters are obliged to take makeup exams.

   The new graduation system went into effect, starting on April 1 when the 2010 school year began, said Choson Sinbo, which is published by pro-North Koreans residing in Japan.

   "We rewrote our school program to adopt a new system that makes all students earn credits required for graduation," the newspaper quoted a professor of the Kimchaek University of Technology as saying.

   The university also decided to apply an elective subject system more flexibly for the first time since 2006, Choson Sinbo added.

   "The move is designed to keep abreast of global trends and have a good grasp of university education in other countries," the report said. "With the introduction of the new system, students can now acquire wide-ranging knowledge and intensify research in their majors."

   In addition, the Kimchaek University of Technology in Pyongyang took measures to improve the quality of lectures on information technology, nanotechnology and program development, the newspaper said, without elaborating.

   Cho Myung-chol, a researcher at the state-run Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul, said, "The Kimchaek University of Technology is the first North Korean college to adopt a credit system for graduation, a move considered as an educational reform."

   It remains to be seen whether North Korea will expand the system, said Cho, who taught at North Korea's Kimilsung University before defecting to South Korea via a third country in 1994.

  
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North Korea Appoints New Ambassador to Switzerland

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has appointed So Se-phyong, former ambassador to Iran, as its new ambassador to Switzerland, the North's official KCNA reported on April 6, citing a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly.

   So will succeed Ri Chol, who recently left office after 30 years in Switzerland. Ri had been known as a caretaker of leader Kim Jong-il's secret funds.

   Ri has been considered one of Kim's closest aides, trustworthy enough for the reclusive leader to send all of his three known sons to Swiss schools.

   However, the KCNA did not elaborate on the details of So Se-phyong. Earlier, the North's media reported on March 3 that ambassador So paid a farewell visit to top Iranian leader in Tehran.

  
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N. Korea Upgrades Police Organ in Bid to Tighten Grip on Economy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has upgraded its top police organ into a full ministry, a television report monitored in Seoul showed, a move analysts said on April 6 is aimed at tightening internal control as the country moves to reinforce its socialist economic planning.

   Footage from the official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station aired on the evening of April 5 showed that the Ministry of People's Security was recently renamed in Korean to indicate that its status within the state has been elevated.

   The apparent upgrade comes as the North prepares to open an annual meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament on April 9. The Supreme People's Assembly gives routine approval to leader Kim Jong-il's decisions, announces shake-ups in the Cabinet and the military, and ratifies policy directives.

   "The North may be pre-announcing part of the reshuffle," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korea Studies in Seoul, said. "The upgrade is designed to step up the state crackdown on social and economic activities that disrupt socialist economic management."

   In November last year, North Korea conducted a surprise currency revaluation in what analysts and officials here said was a move aimed at reasserting control over free market activities. But the move worsened already high inflation and food shortages, causing social unrest.

   North Korea has launched a series of campaigns this year to raise the living standard for its people under its central economic system. The country says it aims to become a "great prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, the centennial of the birth of its founder, Kim Il-sung.

  (END)