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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 104 (April 29, 2010)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

N.K. Says Lee Should Pay Dearly for His Criticism of Fireworks Extravaganza

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak on April 22 that he will "pay dearly" for his criticism of the socialist state's lavish celebration of its late leader's birthday.

   North Korea had a fireworks extravaganza in Pyongyang on April 14, the eve of the 98th anniversary of the birthday of its state founder and late leader, Kim Il-sung. Lee rapped the North for "spending 6 billion won (US$5.8 million) for the overnight fireworks while most of its people are left in destitution."

   Lee will "come to pay dearly for insulting our sovereignty," said a commentary by Uriminzokkiri, the North's official Web site, calling Lee a "traitor" and "a maniac of confrontation" with Pyongyang.

   "Lee's latest comment more clearly showed his most wicked confrontational nature, and it is a delusion to expect something" from his inter-Korean policy, the North's media said.

   The North then defended the fireworks display as an expression of the North Korean people's "endless adoration and praise" for the late father of leader Kim Jong-il.

  
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North Korea, Iran Agree to Boost Cultural, Scientific Exchange

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea and Iran on April 22 agreed to boost exchanges in the fields of culture and science, state media reported, in a sign of greater bilateral efforts to cement their friendship and cooperation.

   In a report monitored in Seoul, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said a 2010-2012 plan for cultural and scientific exchanges between the governments of the DPRK and Iran was signed in Pyongyang. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

   The plan was inked by Jon Yong-jin, vice chairman of the Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and Iran's visiting Vice Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi, according to the KCNA.

   "The friendly relations between the two countries provided by their leaders have grown stronger in various domains including politics, economy and culture," Fathollahi was quoted as telling a reception hosted by the Iranian Embassy on the same day to commemorate the 17th anniversary of Kim Jong-il's election as chairman of the North's National Defense Commission.

   Noting the two countries are supporting each other, he hoped cooperation with the North Korean government in the economic field will be regarded positively in the future, the KCNA reported.

   In a speech at the reception, Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, stressed "the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries have grown stronger under deep care of the leaders of the two countries," according to the report.

   Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun met with the delegation of the Foreign Ministry of Iran led by Fathollahi on the same day, the KCNA said.

   Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, North Korea and Iran have been cooperating in the development of nuclear weapons and missiles, despite global concerns and sanctions by the international community.

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Senior Member of North Korea's Ruling Party Dies at 81

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Ri Yong-chol, a member of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) who has been in charge of the North Korean military's organization and personnel affairs, passed away on April 26 at the age of 81, Pyongyang's official TV reported.

   Ri, who was also first vice director of a department of the WPK Central Committee, died of heart failure, the North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station said, citing a joint obituary released by the WPK's Central Committee and Central Military Commission and the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament.

   "While serving as a key party member for a long period of time, Comrade Ri Yong-chol devoted his wisdom and passion to strengthening and further developing the Korean People's Army," the TV station said.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported on the dame day that leader Kim Jong-il, chairman of the North's powerful national Defense Commission, sent a wreath to the bier of Ri, expressing deep condolences over his death.

   After heading the operational department of the Ministry of People's Armed Forces in the early 1980s, Ri entered the North's ruling WPK as chief of the party's research department in 1986.

   Since 1994, he has served as first-vice director of the department that is charged with handling the organization of the North's military.

  
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North Korea Starts Online Medical Service with Help of WHO

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea began the operation of a nationwide online medical service system on April 27 with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO), Pyongyang's official media reported.

   The online medical service system, which links Kimmanyu Hospital in Pyongyang with provincial people's hospitals, kicked off operations with due ceremony at the hospital in the capital, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   Present at the ceremony were Ri Pong-hun, vice minister of Public Health, Margaret Chan, visiting director-general of the WHO, staff members of its mission in Pyongyang and hospital officials, the KCNA said.

   "The online medical service system was established in the DPRK with the cooperation of the WHO, expressing thanks for the WHO efforts," Ri was quoted as saying. "The DPRK (North Korea) would positively push ahead with the work for increasing the effectiveness of the system under the close cooperation with the WHO in the future, too."

   According to the KCNA, Chan said in her speech that the operation of the system is suited to the reality of the DPRK, which has lots of mountainous areas, adding that it is a good idea to expand medical service for people through the use of information technology.

   The KCNA said April 26 that Chan arrived in Pyongyang along with Massimo Barra, chairman of the Standing Commission of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, but it did not disclose the purpose of their visit.

   Chan's visit to Pyongyang comes amid reports of a worsening food crisis in North Korea.

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Kim Jung-rin, Secretary of North Korea's Ruling Party, Dies at 86

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Kim Jung-rin, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), died of a heart attack on April 28 at the age of 86, North Korea's state media reported.

   Born into a peasant family in Jagang Province in 1923, Kim, also deputy to the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), began his career at the WPK in 1954, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   As a party secretary in charge of handling relations with South Korea, he held a secret meeting with Lee Hu-rak, then head of South Korea's spy agency, in Pyongyang in May 1972. Kim also served in other key WPK posts and had been active as deputy to the SPA, North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, since 1962.

   "He devoted himself to the strengthening and development of the party and the revolutionary ranks and the victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche (self-reliance)," the KCNA said.

   Kim received the Kim Il-sung Order, the highest order of North Korea, and many other awards in recognition of the feats performed for the Party, the revolution, the country and its people, according to the KCNA.

   An obituary for Kim Jung-rin was jointly issued by the WPK Central Committee and the SPA Presidium. A state funeral will be held for him, the KCNA added.

  (END)