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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 110 (June 10, 2010)

N. Korea Calls S. Korean Election Outcome 'Punishment' on Ruling Gov't

SEOUL June 4 (Yonhap) -- Commenting on South Korea's local elections that ended in an upset victory for the opposition, North Korea called them "firm punishment" on President Lee Myung-bak's government, as the sides sizzle in enmity over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

   In a commentary released late June 3, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the mayoral and gubernatorial polls dealt "an iron hammer" to the conservative Seoul government, calling them a crushing defeat for the ruling party.

   In the June 2 elections, widely viewed as a mid-term referendum on Lee, his Grand National Party won six of the 16 gubernatorial and mayoral races, while the opposition Democratic Party got seven.

   The outcome contrasted with pre-election surveys, which predicted the March 26 sinking of a South Korean corvette near the border with North Korea would give Lee a boost in the elections.

   South Korea says the North torpedoed the 1,200-ton Cheonan, killing 46 crew members, a tragedy the socialist country denies any link to. The South Korean opposition party initially downplayed chances of North Korean involvement but mounted a campaign to criticize the Seoul government for failing to prevent the sinking.

   North Korea has threatened an "all-out war" for any punishment for the sinking, while the South is moving to take the case to the U.N. Security Council and is implementing a series of retaliatory measures, including a ban on trade with the impoverished neighbor.

   In 2006, North Korea commented on South Korea's local elections three days after they were conducted.


N. Korea Warns of 'Toughest Retaliation' over U.N. Handling of Ship Sinking

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on June 4 to call for a new investigation into the sinking of a South Korean warship, warning of "the toughest retaliation" if punishment against Pyongyang is discussed.

   The North's unidentified foreign ministry spokesman told the official Korean Central News Agency that Pyongyang's response would be similar to those taken in the past, but did not elaborate.

   Analysts have warned that North Korea may conduct a third nuclear test if South Korea and the U.S. ratchet up pressure on the communist state over the March 26 sinking that killed 46 seamen.

   North Korea has denied its role in the sinking and called the outcome of a South Korea-led multinational investigation into the incident "a sheer fabrication." The probe, which has yet to be fully acknowledged by China and Russia, two of the five veto-wielding UNSC members, concluded that a North Korean submarined sneaked across the Yellow Sea border and torpedoed the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan.

   The UNSC also consists of Great Britain, France and the United States. South Korea, backed by the U.S., is engaged in a diplomatic campaign to take the sinking to the UNSC and punish Pyongyang.

   "It is important for the member countries of the UNSC to pay primary attention to objectively probing the truth behind the case and make a right decision of their own if they do not wish to see the council reduced again to a tool for high-handed and arbitrary practices of the U.S.," the spokesman said.

   He also warned the UNSC will be held responsible for "having blocked the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and sparked off a conflict" if Pyongyang carries out its threat.

   North Korea demands that South Korea accept an "inspection group" from Pyongyang and verify the results of the investigation in front of it. Seoul has refused the demand, saying the matter should be discussed through the U.N. as the sides remain technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.


North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Visits Chemical Plant

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il has visited a chemical plant, state media reported on June 5, marking his third public appearance since South Korea blamed the socialist country for the March sinking of a warship near their western sea border.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim, 68, provided field guidance to a gasification facility in Anju, South Pyongan Province. But the report did not say when he visited the plant.

   Two days earlier, the KCNA reported that Kim visited a machinery plant. The report also did not say when he visited the plant or where the factory is located.

   The last time Kim's outing was reported on June 2, his first public appearance in 12 days after a day after Seoul condemned Pyongyang for the sinking of its 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan and the deaths of 46 of its crew members. North Korea denies its role in the sinking.

   Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008. He has since stepped up his public activities. The number of his outings reached an all-time high last year, coming at about 200.


N. Korea Establishes Physical Education Universities to Foster Athletes

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has set up new physical education universities across the country in a bid to foster athletes to compete in international sports events.

   Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by the pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan, said on June 7 that the three state-run physical education universities, currently under test operations, are newly established in the provinces of North Hwanghae, South Hamgyong and North Pyongan.

   It marks the first time for North Korea to establish comprehensive training institutes to foster professional athletes since the foundation of its first physical education school in Pyongyang in 1958.

   The recent measure is considered one of the movements by the North to further cement its presence in the world, which it hopes to achieve by increasing its participation in global athletic events, such as the World Cup.

   North Korea has outlined a new education system for these schools, comprised of two correlated departments for athletes and a special training course for teachers, the newspaper said.

   The system accommodates students from 14 years old, who are selected according to their talent and capacity. In the seven-year course, they will receive intensive training for each sports category, while also taking up foreign language courses and theoretical studies.

   The Sariwon University of Physical Education, North Hwanghae Province, has produced professional football players, including Nam Song-chol and Ji Yun-nam, who are both set to play in the upcoming World Cup finals in South Africa, added Choson Sinbo.


North Korea Adds More Details to Profiles of Senior Officials

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea has exceptionally unveiled relatively detailed profiles of its newly appointed senior officials, providing a few new biographical facts that were not available before, according to its official state news media.

   The profiles of eight senior officials, including their age and work experience, was reported via the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) on June 8, a day after the North held a rare parliamentary session.

   It is unprecedented in North Korea to specify information other than the officials' names and current job positions.

   The details of these officials, however, had only a few small discrepancies compared to previous data known in the South.

   The actual birthday of Jang Song-thaek, lately appointed as a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, was January 22, 1946, which had been known as February 6 in the South.

   Jang, a graduate from Kimilsung University, began to hold significant positions in the North's Workers' Party in 1972, the news media said. He is now in the highest seat of power after his brother-in-law, Kim Jong-il.

   Choe Yong-rim, newly appointed as premier of the Cabinet, was identified to have born in 1929, differing from 1930 as was known in the South.

   "North Korea may be trying to win back people's support by showing the senior officials will also be given power, from now on, to appeal their opinion to the upper echelon when making major decisions," said Yang Moo-jin, professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.


N. Korea Sends Letter to U.N. Security Council over Warship Sinking

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on June 9 it has sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to urge a new probe into the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, warning of "serious" consequences if punishment against Pyongyang is discussed.

   The North is accused of sinking the 1,200-ton South Korean corvette and killing 46 seamen on March 26 near the Yellow Sea border with South Korea. Seoul has formally requested the 15-member UNSC to discuss ways to hold Pyongyang to account, citing a multinational investigation that concluded the ship was torpedoed.

   "In case the unilaterally forged 'investigation result' is put on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council ... it will be more than clear that the sovereignty and security of (North Korea) is infringed upon," a letter by Sin Son-ho, permanent North Korea representative at the U.N., was quoted as saying by the socialist state's official Korean Central News Agency.

   "By then, no one would dare imagine how serious its consequences would be with regard to the peace and security on the Korean Peninsula," the letter, addressed to UNSC President Claude Heller and sent on June 8, was quoted as saying.

   North Korea has threatened war if it is punished or sanctioned for the sinking, demanding Seoul accept an inspecting group from Pyongyang and verify the results of its probe in front of it.

   Earlier June 9, the South Korean foreign ministry said a multinational team of investigators will brief the UNSC members on the outcome of their probe that found North Korea responsible.

   South Korea referred the sinking to the council last week for a rebuke of Pyongyang. South Korean investigators are scheduled to depart for New York late June 9, a ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

   China and Russia, two of the veto-wielding UNSC members, have yet to acknowledge the results. Britain, France and the United States are also permanent members.