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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 121 (August 26, 2010)

N. Korea, China Reaches Consensus on Six-way Talks Resumption

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Aug. 19 it has reached consensus with China on issues related to the resumption of the six-party talks on ending its nuclear weapons programs.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) made the report in a dispatch from Pyongyang while confirming the visit to the North Korean capital by a Chinese delegation, led by chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei, for three days from Aug. 16.

   "The two sides had in-depth discussions on the regional situation and the bilateral relations of friendship and matters of mutual concern including the resumption of the six-party talks and the denuclearization of the whole Korean Peninsula," the KCNA said. "They reached a full consensus of views on all the matters discussed."

   While in Pyongyang, Wu met with Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun and Kim Yong-il, department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea, the KCNA said.

   The multilateral nuclear talks have been on hold since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

   South Korea and the U.S. blame the North for the torpedoeing of the Cheonan with the loss of 46 lives, and call for North Korea's apology and commitment for its denuclearization prior to reopening of the nuclear talks. North Korea denies responsibility.


N. Korea Renews Demand for Colonial Compensation from Japan

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Aug. 20 called for Japan's apology and compensation for all victims of Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule and denounced the annexation as "state terrorism."

   An unidentified spokesman for the North's Foreign Ministry issued a statement to renew Pyongyang's demand ahead of the centenary of the annexation treaty, which took effect on Aug. 29, 1910.

   "Had the present Japanese regime had nothing to do with the past militarist regime and had it not had any dream of reviving it, it might have repented and apologized to all victims for the past without any precondition and discrimination," the statement, released by the North's state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), read.

   The statement added, "It should make immediate apology and reparation for the hideous crimes committed against the Korean people after usurping their national sovereignty through the fabrication of invalid 'treaties.' If it fails to do so, it can never be upright in the international community."

   The spokesman's statement claimed that more than 1 million Koreans were killed and at least 8.4 million others were coerced into labor and thrown onto battlefields, while 200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual slavery.

   Earlier in the day, the KCNA issued a lengthy indictment denouncing the annexation as "state terrorism committed by the Japanese authorities against a sovereign state by use of government and military power."

   Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Aug. 10 offered his "heartfelt apology" for the suffering imposed on Koreans during the colonial rule, with the first acknowledgment that the colonial rule was enforced against the will of the Korean people.

   "We totally don't understand what Japan apologizes for and whom it apologizes to," Song Il-ho, North Korea's ambassador for normalization talks with Japan, told Kyodo in Pyongyang on Aug. 13. "The statement gave a sense of disappointment and resentment to all (North) Koreans."


North Korean Ex-PM Pak Pong-ju Appears to Be Back in Power

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's former Premier Pak Pong-ju appears to have returned to power with the Workers' Party, according to a Pyongyang report on Aug. 21, more than three years after he was said to have been ousted due to his failed economic reform drive.

   The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station introduced Pak as the "first-deputy director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea" in a report on the 50th founding ceremony of famed Okryu Restaurant in Pyongyang on Aug. 20 with a number of senior government and party officials.

   There is no other known figure with the same name among the North Korean power-holding elite.

   Pak, a long-time industry technocrat and pragmatist, was named premier of the North's Cabinet in September 2003. He spearheaded the North's so-called July 1st economic measure reform drive toward market economy, which aimed to give more autonomy to state firms and gradually reduce state rationing of food and daily necessities.

   But his strong initiative triggered a backlash from the party and the military that resulted in his dismissal. Pak was suspended from duty in June 2006 on charges of fund apprehension and was fired in April the following year. Kim Yong-il, then land and marine transport minister, replaced him.

   Pak is believed to have been demoted to a managerial post at a clothing factory outside Pyongyang.

   The broadcast report on Aug. 21 did not specify which department of the Workers' Party Pak joined, but it is likely that he was posted to the light industry department, considering the ceremony involving a restaurant and the fact that he was the department's first deputy director in 1993.

   Pak is believed to be a close confidante to Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and brother-in-law of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. Jang is seen as the central figure in grooming Kim's third and youngest son, Jong-un, as the next leader.

   Japan's Mainichi Shimbun reported on Aug. 15, quoting multiple sources, that Pak and about 20 other figures close to Jang had been reinstated within the past two years. The report also said Pak has risen to the second highest spot in the party's light industry department, which is headed by Kim Kyong-hui, Kim Jong-il's sister and Jang's wife.


North Korean Media Reports Swiftly on Rain, Flood Damage

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean media reported promptly on flood damage and related rescue operations in Sinuiju, a large city bordering China, which was hit by sudden torrential rains since last week.

   The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) reported on Aug. 24 that a total of 24.4 million square meters of farmland were inundated by heavy rains, leaving crops in the fields unfit for harvest.

   The KCBS reported that authorities and workers in the area were working to minimize damage at the earliest date but noted the difficulties ahead from the flooding of the nearby Amnok (Yalu) River.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported earlier on Aug. 22 that it evacuated more than 5,000 people in and around Sinuiju after heavy rains and flash floods submerged houses and farmlands.

   Military planes and warships were urgently deployed to the submerged areas in and around Sinuiju, a North Korean border town, and successfully rescued the residents who were "at the crossroads of life and death," the KCNA said.

   The KCNA said "unprecedented downpours" hit China's northeastern regions from Aug. 19 to 20, sparking flash floods in the Amnok River that marks the border between the two nations.

   It reported that 5,300 cubic meters of water rushed into the river per second from China, prompting its sudden overflow at midnight on Friday. The flash flood "paralyzed traffic and did damage to many objects" and "flood victims were at a loss on the rooftops of buildings and hills," the report said.

   The U.S.-based newspaper Christian Science Monitor observed that the North's unusually swift rain damage reports may have been to highlight the crisis management ability of leader Kim Jong-il in light of speculation of a power transfer to his third son and heir apparent, Jong-un.


Rodong Sinmun Carries Poem Suggesting Power Transfer to Heir Apparent

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The newspaper of North Korea's ruling party recently carried a poem that contained several parts that suggest an expected power succession from leader Kim Jong-il to his third son.

   The Rodong Sinmun carried the piece with a title that roughly translates to "Shine, Young Men of Songun (military-first)" on Aug. 22, three days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the start of Kim Jong-il's "Songun revolutionary leadership."

   The poem carries the word "footstep," which coincides with the title of a song that has been widely interpreted by North Korea watchers in South Korea as extolling the valiance of the heir apparent, Kim Jong-un.

   Kim Jong-il, who reportedly suffered a stroke in the summer of 2008 and is still ailing in the aftermath, is believed to be preparing to hand over power to his youngest son.

   The passage, which reads, "the courage and spirit of the general lasted as is," can be interpreted as a justification of the likely succession of power to Jong-un.

   A part of the poem also reads, "Let's protect our commander in chief, the center of our party with our lives." Many observers interpret "the center of our party" as suggesting the heir apparent.

   When Kim Jong-il was named as a member of the Workers' Party's Political Bureau in 1974, the Rodong Sinmun then also used the phrase in referring to the current leader.

   The heir-apparent is heavily shrouded in secrecy, and even his age has yet to be confirmed other than that he is in his 20s.

   North Korea watchers speculate the younger Kim will make his public debut at the party's September session, which opens for the first time in 44 years. The date of the meeting has not been announced.


Kim Jong-il Inspects Chicken Farm Amid Health Exam Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently appeared at a chicken farm as part of his routine field guidance in light of a report that he was examined by French doctors for his reportedly ailing health.

   The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Aug. 24 that Kim "gave field guidance to (the) 927 Chicken Farm which set an example in implementing the Workers' Party of (North) Korea's policy on stockbreeding," without revealing when the trip was made.

   According to the report, Kim was "very pleased" and expressed satisfaction on the farm's updated facilities and increased production, and lauded the workers for implementing the party's policy on stockbreeding. The report did not say where the farm was located.

   Kim's latest whereabouts were followed by a report from the Seoul-based Open Radio for North Korea, which said that Kim received a thorough examination of his cerebral and central nerves by French doctors, citing unidentified "high-level North Korean sources."

   The KCNA on Aug. 25 reports that Kim Jong-il gave field guidance to the Pyongyang Cornstarch Factory.

   According to the report, two French doctors visited the northeastern city of Hamhung from Aug. 2 to 14 and, together with Kim's North Korean physicians, examined the leader's health through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other exams.

   The report added that the two doctors also were in charge of Kim's health when he reportedly suffered a stroke in August 2008. The latest exam was made considering that recent heat waves and heavy rains could affect Kim's condition, it said.

   On Aug. 17, the KCNA suggested that Kim Jong-il stayed in Hamhung in mid-August, while reporting that Kim viewed the light comedy "Echo of Mountain" at the Hamhung Grand Theatre together with servicepersons of the (North) Korean People's Army.


N. Korea Marks 50th Anniversary of Military-first Leadership

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the country's military-first politics in Pyongyang and vowed to launch a holy war to defend its regime based on nuclear deterrent.

   According to the KCNA, North Korea held a "national meeting" on Aug. 24 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium to mark the 50th anniversary of leader Kim Jong-il's start of the "Songun," or military-first, revolutionary leadership.

   Leader Kim Jong-il has ruled the North through the army rather than the ruling party, chartering the songun politics to deal with both domestic and foreign challenges.

   In 2006 and 2009, the country conducted nuclear tests, billing them as major tokens of his policy that focuses on deterring what it calls U.S. hostilities against Pyongyang.

   Present at the event were "senior party, army and state officials," the KCNA said, but did not say whether the country's leader showed up at the meeting.

   Kim Yong-nam, the North's ceremonial head of state, delivered an address at the meeting, in which he lauded the songun leadership for bringing about "epoch-making miracles and changes in the confrontation with the United States and other imperialists."

   He stressed that the North will "never tolerate any reckless moves of the U.S. imperialists and that its military was prepared to launch a sacred retaliatory war ... based on nuclear deterrent any time they deem necessary" as a self-defense measure.


China to Povide Relief Aids to Flood-Stricken North Korea: KCNA

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- China decided to grant emergency relief aid to flood-stricken North Korea, which will help the country expedite its recovery from flood damage, the North's official news media said on Aug. 25.

   "The Chinese government decided to provide emergency relief materials," to the North after "some areas of North Korea, including Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province, were hit by floods recently," a news piece carried by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

   The story did not refer to specific forms of relief aid or when it will be distributed.

   The Chinese aid provision will help North Koreans recover from the flood damage at the earliest possible time and will encourage them "more energetically to step up the building of a thriving nation," the KCNA said.

   Chinese President Hu Jintao offered condolences to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and his people regarding the fallout from the severe deluge, the KCNA said in a separate news article.