*** NEWS IN BRIEF
North Korea Says Recent Floods Destroyed 7,100 Houses
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Recent torrential rains and floods have inflicted serious damage on North Korea's northwestern city of Sinuiju and neighboring Uiju County, destroying about 7,100 houses and submerging about 7,200 hectares of farmlands, the North's media reported on Aug. 26.
According to the report by the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), rivers have overflowed by unprecedented downpours of rain that fell on the Sinuiju area bordering China's northeastern city of Dandong from Aug. 19-21.
Citing information from a relevant organ, KCNA said, "More than 7,100 dwelling blocks for 7,750 families have been totally or partially destroyed or submerged."
"An estimated 7,200 hectares of farmlands have been flooded, buried or washed away and more than 300 production-related and public buildings, 400 meters of bridges, 7,700 cubic meters of railroad, many structures, vehicles, water pumps and electromotors damaged," said the agency in its English news service.
Many pieces of power transmission equipment have also been lost, it said, noting that the government was buckling down on flood recovery and stabilizing the lives of the affected people.
North Korea Frees Detained American After Carter's Visit
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Following the rare visit by a former U.S. president to Pyongyang, North Korea freed an American that it detained for illegally trespassing in protest of the country's allegedly dire human rights condition.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter flew to the North Korean capital on Aug. 25 on what the U.S. government called "a private humanitarian mission" and gained a special pardon for Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced in May to eight years of labor and fined about US$700,000 for illegal entry in January.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Aug. 27 said in its English dispatch that Carter apologized to Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's nominal head of state, for Gomes' actions "on behalf of the government of the U.S." and requested his release.
"After receiving a report on the request made by the U.S. government and Carter, (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-il issued an order of the chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission on granting amnesty to Gomes," the report said, referring to the North by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"The measure taken by the DPRK to set free the illegal entrant is a manifestation of its humanitarianism and peace-loving policy," the KCNA added.
Gomes taught English in South Korea between 2006 and 2009. He joined rallies denouncing North Korea's dismal human rights records and reportedly sympathized with Robert Park, a Korean-American missionary who entered North Korea illegally from China in December but was set free about two months later.
During the three-day trip, the 85-year-old former U.S. leader met with the North's nominal head of state, Kim Yong-nam, the country's foreign minister and other senior officials, according to the KCNA.
Despite the trip being dubbed a "humanitarian mission," the KCNA reported that Carter and his party met and had an "open-hearted discussion" with foreign minister Pak Ui-chun and other senior officials on the North Korea-U.S. relations, the resumption of the six-party talks and other issues of mutual concern.
"The Pyongyang visit paid by Jimmy Carter, ex-president of the U.S., provided a favorable occasion of deepening the understanding and building confidence between the two countries," the KCNA observed.
The former president's trip to the North, the second since his first visit in 1994, "provided a favorable occasion of deepening the understanding and building confidence between the two countries," the KCNA said.
On Aug. 27, Carter and his party left Pyongyang together with Gomes.
N. Korea Blasts S. Korea for Blocking Twitter Account
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out on Aug. 30 at South Korea over Seoul's blocking of its online propaganda sites, including one on Twitter Inc.
The denunciation by uriminzokkiri, a website operated by the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, confirms Pyongyang has been behind the recent wave of propaganda on such world-renowned websites as YouTube and Twitter.
Uriminzokkiri, which is at http://www.uriminzokkiri.com, is blocked from access in South Korea, which considers North Korea's propaganda material as illegal, citing an anti-communist law.
"The traitor's group is trying in vain to shut the eyes and ears of the South Korean people with the fascist National Security Law, running counter to the era of information," it said in a commentary monitored by Yonhap News Agency.
North Korea is one of the world's most secretive nations, restricting its people's access to the Internet and any other flow of information in and out of its territory. But its elite are seen as having a keen interest in information technology.
It has been expanding its propaganda warfare as South Korea and the United States push Pyongyang to admit to sinking the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, killing 46 sailors.
The North denies its role. It has posted a number of statements lashing out at Seoul and Washington on its Twitter page, which had at least 8,700 subscribers before it was blocked here.
North Korea Blasts Joint South Korea-U.S. Anti-sub Drill
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea condemned a scheduled joint military drill between South Korea and the U.S. in the Yellow Sea set for this month, saying its combat readiness was well prepared to counter any threats.
South Korea and the U.S. plan to conduct anti-submarine warfare drills in the Yellow Sea in early September, the latest in a series of military maneuvers the allies have held or plan to hold to send a message of deterrence to Pyongyang following the March 26 sinking of a South Korean warship. A Seoul-led multinational team of investigators concluded in May that North Korea torpedoed the ship, leaving 46 sailors dead.
The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling party, said in an editorial on Aug. 30 that the U.S. "should clearly look at the opponent and not make a military-strategic mistake."
"Our military and people are prepared with combat readiness to crush even if thousands of foes in a single blow," the paper said.
The denunciation aimed at the U.S. was the first since former U.S. President Jimmy Carter traveled to Pyongyang last week. to secure the freedom of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American who had been detained after having illegally entered the North in January.
North Korea Prepares for Upcoming Conference of Ruling Party
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is apparently speeding up preparations for an upcoming conference of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), with many sub groups within the party voting leader Kim Jong-il as their group's representative for the meeting.
North Korea has announced that it will convene a conference of its ruling party in early September to elect the party's "highest leading body," amid speculation that Kim Jong-un, the leader's youngest and third son, will be appointed to the political bureau to speed up the power succession process.
The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Aug. 29 that the North Pyongan Province chapter of the WPK held their meeting of representatives on Aug. 26 in Sinuiju and hailed the senior Kim as their representative of the September conference.
The meeting, attended by top officials, including Premier Choe Yong-rim, voted "unanimously on the written decision that names comrade Kim Jong-il as their leader in the meeting," KCNA said.
The (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) also reported on Aug. 28 that the South Pyongyan Province chapter of the WPK held a similar meeting in the city of Pyongsong and unanimously voted Kim as the area's representative of the September conference.
The (North) Korean People's Army also held their own meeting in selecting their representatives on Aug. 25 and elected the leader as their proxy for the conference, according to the KCNA.
The meetings in respective areas and bodies also voted on exemplary workers and party members, who will take part in the conference, the KCNA added on Aug. 26.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet news outlet specializing in North Korean affairs, citing an informed source, reported on Aug. 28 that rural people's access into Pyongyang was placed under strict control, with guard posts having been placed on major roads leading into the country's capital.
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