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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 117 (July 29, 2010)

North Korea Continues to Communicate with Seoul on Dam Discharges

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea continued reaching out to Seoul in informing its southern neighbor of its plans to discharge border dams during the torrential monsoon season, an about-face from last year's abrupt opening of dam gates that left six South Korean campers dead.

   On July 22, officials at the Unification Ministry said that Seoul had received notice from the North that it would release water from its border dams north of the Imjin River on the same day.

   Torrential rains have pounded the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks, raising the water levels of major rivers. The peninsula is currently in the grip of the summer rainy season.

   On July 19, North Korea discharged 1,000 tons of water per second from one of its border dams, after having informed South Korea a day earlier that it would do so. The warnings have prompted South Korea to take steps to stave off any damage from the discharge.

   Last September, the North unleashed about 40 million tons of water from the dam without prior notice, triggering a flash flood that killed six South Korean campers just south of the border.

   In working-level talks in October of last year, the South demanded an apology from the North and called for its relevant authorities to provide details of planned dam discharges in advance, including the name of the dam, the amount of water to be released, and the reason for the discharge.

   The North accepted the request in the talks, expressing regret over the fatal accident, and conveyed a message of condolence to the bereaved families.

   South Korean officials have downplayed any suggestions that the North's notices could be a gesture aimed at thawing the frigid relations between the divided states.

   The KCNA reported on June 23 that more than 100 millimeters of rain had poured on Ichon County since the previous evening. Kaesong received some 79 millimeters of rain, and Paechon County saw about 50 millimeters of rain as well.


S. Korea to Offer Loans to Companies Banned from Trading with N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will provide low-interest loans worth a total of about 60 billion won (US$50 million) to companies troubled by a government ban on trade with North Korea, an official said on July 26.

   The loans are aimed at alleviating the financial trouble of the companies, which started when South Korea implemented a ban in May in retaliation for the March 26 sinking of its warship near the Yellow Sea border with North Korea, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said in a briefing.

   "Each company will be eligible to receive a loan of up to 700 million won with a 2 percent interest rate, based on the volume and type of trade the companies have been doing for the past year," he said, adding the measure will take effect next week.

   Hundreds of companies had to stop trading with North Korea after South Korea announced that a multinational investigation found the socialist state responsible for the Cheonan sinking, which claimed the lives of 46 sailors.

   The South has blamed the sinking on an elusive North Korean submarine, demanding the North apologize and punish those involved in the attack. The U.S. and South Korea are also holding massive maritime drills in the East Sea this week in protest. The North denies any role in the sinking.