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North Korea Finalizes 23-player World Cup Roster

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has finalized its 23-player roster for this year's World Cup finals, set to kick off in South Africa next month, FIFA said on May 13 on its Web site.

   North Korea's final roster disclosed on the FIFA Web site includes three overseas players -- midfielder An Yong-hak (Omiya Ardija of the Japan League) and forwards Hong Yong-jo (Rostov of the Russian League) and Jong Tae-se (Kawasaki Frontale of the Japan League).

   North Korea, which reached the quarterfinals of the 1966 World Cup in England, has qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 44 years.

   The North has been drawn into Group G, along with four-time World Cup champion Brazil, Didier Drogba's Ivory Coast, and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

   The North's final roster also includes three members of its U-19 team -- Kim Kum-il (April 25), Ri Kwang-hyok (Kyonggongop) and Ri Chol-myong (Pyongyang City). The youngest member is 20-year-old Pak Sung-hyok (Sobaeksu), who has never appeared in a World Cup preliminary.

   The North Korean World Cup team left Pyongyang last week and is now staying in Switzerland to prepare for friendlies with Paraguay, Greece and Nigeria.

   South Korea has yet to finalize its 23-member roster.


N. Korean Leadership Has Nothing to Show But Poverty: Powell

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Although the six-party denuclearization forum on North Korea is currently in a deadlock, it is still a useful policy tool, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in Seoul on May 13.

   Powell, who took charge of the State Department from 2001-2005 during the first George W. Bush administration, played a key role in creating the multilateral forum in 2003. The forum involves the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   The forum has since produced two meaningful accords under which North Korea agreed to disarm in exchange for economic and political rewards, but the parties involved failed to translate them into action largely because of disagreements over who should do what first.

   "The framework has not solved the problem," Powell said in his keynote address at the Korea Vision Forum hosted by South Korea's Unification Ministry, stressing that it still remains the "right framework for a comprehensive solution."

   "Five members stand ready for the sixth member to return to discussions, Powell said, referring to North Korea, which has been boycotting the forum since late 2008. "Until that day comes, we must do what we can to convince the North."

   As a precondition for its return to the negotiating table, North Korea is now demanding the removal of U.N. sanctions imposed on it over its menacing missile and nuclear tests in 2009 and the start of peace talks with Washington. The U.S. and South Korea have turned down the North's demand.

   In his harsh criticism of North Korea's socialist regime, Powell also said the country's leader, Kim Jong-il, will face "the judgment of history" for making his already poor country poorer.

   "With each day, the North falls further behind, becomes more isolated, using gimmicks to avoid problems," Powell said. "Kim Jong-il has done all of these things and will not escape the judgment of history."

   During the forum attended by scholars, government officials and students, Powell said North Kora bungled its recent currency reform, forcing itself "into deeper and deeper despair."


Leadership Change in N. Korea Should Be Exploited by Neighbors

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States should seize on an apparent leadership succession in North Korea as a chance to bring about fundamental changes in its recalcitrant behavior, a leading U.S. scholar said May 14.

   "We should have great skepticism about the current North Korean leadership," Richard Haass, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, said in a forum in Seoul, calling on Seoul and Washington to "embrace and urge a real policy change in North Korea through this process of leadership evolution."

   U.S. and South Korean officials say North Korea is undergoing a power transfer from leader Kim Jong-il to his third son, Jong-un, about whom little is known. If successful, the move would make the North the only socialist country in the world to engineer a back-to-back hereditary power transition.

   Haass said China has "more influence on Pyongyang than it admits" and that the apparent succession "opens up possibilities for China supporting leadership change in North Korea particularly when the current leadership period comes to an end."

   "The only prospect for a meaningful and substantive political change in North Korea's behavior would come as a result of the efforts of its neighbor, China." he said.

   China is North Korea's last remaining major ideological ally. Trade between the neighboring countries accounts for the lion's share of North Korea's transactions, and their leaders agreed in Beijing last week to bolster exchanges on multiple levels.

   The meeting between Kim Jong-il and Hu Jintao, however, raised concerns that China's expanding relationship with North Korea may hamstring international pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize.

   Haass, whose New York-based organization is considered one of the most influential American think tanks, said denuclearization remains an important goal, but will remain a distant one without China re-examining its relationship with North Korea.

   South Korea and the United States should "influence China to rethink its behavior, rethink its relationship with North Korea," he said. "We can highlight the risks to China for continuing with the status quo."

   He cited the "the risk of conflict on the (Korean) Peninsula, the risk of refugee flows, the risk of chaotic collapse, the risk of further spread of weapons of mass destruction."


N.K.'s Relationship with U.S. to Be Affected by Human Rights Record

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Human rights conditions in North Korea will play an important role in its future relationship with the United States, a senior U.S. official said May 17.

   "How human rights in North Korea are addressed will be an important element in terms of the prospect for relations between the United States and North Korea," Robert King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, told a forum here. "Human rights are a top priority of the administration of the United States."

   King expressed "deep concerns" about North Korea's human rights conditions, which are said to be among the worst in the world, saying, "I want to emphasize that how we deal with North Korea is going to be affected by how North Korea deals with its human rights problem."

   An annual report released by the U.S. State Department in March said that North Korea's human rights conditions remain "deplorable" under an "absolute" dictatorship by reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.

   The report said hundreds of thousands of North Korean refugees defected to China last year. Repatriated North Koreans are subject to "a minimum of five years of labor correction," or "indefinite terms of imprisonment and forced labor, confiscation of property, or death," it said.

   Most North Korean refugees, fleeing poverty, head to South Korea via neighboring China.

   South Korea has received about 18,000 North Korean defectors since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War. The U.S. has taken in nearly 100 North Korean refugees since the North Korean Human Rights Act of 2004 was enacted.

   China has come under criticism for repatriating North Korean refugees under a secret agreement with North Korea, categorizing defectors as economic immigrants rather than refugees, despite the danger of them being persecuted back home.

   The U.S. raised the refugee issue during the first human rights dialogue with China under the Obama administration, which was held here last week, said Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor.

   "I think again this is an area -- maybe another area where a more regular discussion about refugee protection issues could be a very useful thing," Posner said. "And we're certainly following those cases and we'll continue to raise them."

   Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came under fire last year when she said the human rights issue should not serve as a stumbling block to improved Sino-U.S. ties.

   King said in January that the U.S. will raise North Korea's human rights record in future six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs. However, the State Department said King will not be part of the U.S. delegation to the nuclear talks, a policy consistent with that of the Bush administration, which did not want to jeopardize the fragile multilateral forum.


South Korean FM Says North Korean Attack 'Obvious'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said May 19 the cause of the deadly sinking of a warship in March "came to clear light," calling North Korea's involvement "obvious."

   His comments came a day before South Korea disclosed the results of a multinational investigation into the March 26 sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan near the western sea border with North Korea.

   Yu said in a speech to European diplomats and business officials that the probe indicates the ship sank due to "a strong underwater explosion generated by the detonation of a torpedo."

   Asked by reporters whether he believes the sinking was caused by a North Korean attack, Yu said, "It's obvious."

   Forty-six crew members died in the tragedy, which sparked nationwide mourning here. Seoul has pledged a strong response and plans to bring the case to the U.N. Security Council if Pyongyang is found responsible. The North denies any role.

   South Korea will take "appropriate measures in a firm and prudent manner," Yu told members of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

   The measures are "needed to deter any future provocations that will undermine peace and stability in Northeast Asia, thereby representing an opportunity to create a more stable regional order," he said.

   His ministry has been inviting envoys of dozens of regional associations and countries this week to reveal the results of the probe. On Tuesday, the ministry briefed the ambassadors of China, Russia and Japan, three neighboring countries involved in a six-nation forum aimed at denuclearizing North Korea.

   Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say they will not agree to the resumption of talks until the probe ends. South Korean officials said Wednesday that investigators found a serial number marked on torpedo propeller fragments collected from the scene of the sinking, the latest evidence pointing to a North Korean submarine attack.