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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 211 (May 24, 2012)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

North Korea Builds Benevolent Image of Leader Kim Jong-un

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media have apparently set out to build an image of the country's new leader Kim Jong-un as caring as citizens show little sign of warming to the young ruler.

   Numerous reports in the North Korean media recently have stressed Kim's concern for his people by quoting his instructions to officials during inspection trips to industrial sites and public facilities.

   On May 16, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) carried a report titled "Kim Jong-il's History of Love for People Continues in DPRK (North Korea)," claiming such devotion ran in the leader's family.
"It was leader Kim Jong-il's noble outlook on the people that the masses are almighty and the Korean people are great," the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch monitored in Seoul. "With this outlook he had devoted all his life to the people's happiness. His history of love for the people steadily continues in the DPRK, thanks to the dear respected Kim Jong-un."

   Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, inherited power from his father Kim Jong-il upon the latter's death in December.

   The report went on to describe the leader's visits to a machine plant, a theater and an amusement park, all of which were apparently aimed at learning about the working conditions of employees and demonstrating a "proper spirit of serving the people."

   Photos of the leader released by the North's media have often shown him linking arms with his people and displaying affection toward them, a style of leadership different from his father's. North Korean media have also been quick to report each time Kim Jong-un has sent handwritten replies to letters from his people.

   Baek Seung-joo, a senior analyst at the state-run Korea Institute of Defense Analyses in Seoul, said the media's image-building could be designed to strengthen weak public support for Kim Jong-un.

   "The fact that North Korea is highlighting Kim Jong-un's people-friendly approach is evidence (the regime) knows well the weakness of its popular foundation," he said.

   In early May, North Korean media for the first time reported on a public censure by the leader. According to the news reports, Kim Jong-un lashed out at officials of an amusement park in Pyongyang for neglecting to take proper care of the facility's grounds and rides.

   "Seeing the weeds grown in between pavement blocks in the compound of the funfair, he, with an irritated look, plucked them up one by one," the KCNA said in a May 9 dispatch. "He scolded officials, saying why such things do not come in their sight and querying could the officials of the funfair work like this, had they had the attitude befitting master, affection for their work sites and conscience to serve the people."

  
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N. Korean Health Delegation Leaves for Switzerland for WHO Conference

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean public health delegation left for Switzerland on May 17 to attend the general assembly of the World Health Organization, the North's official news agency reported.

   The delegation is led by Kim Myong-chol, vice minister of Public Health, the KCNA reported in a brief dispatch, without elaborating further.

   The U.N. health body said on its Web site the assembly would discuss a number of public health issues, including universal health coverage and Millennium Development Goals.

   In 2000, world leaders adopted the U.N. Millennium Declaration to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce child mortality and achieve universal primary education by 2015. The declaration also calls for global efforts to promote gender equality and improve maternal health, and to combat HIV and AIDS.

   Medicines and medical equipment are in short supply in North Korea as its medical system has collapsed, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification, a Seoul-based state think tank.

  
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North Korea Denies Jamming GPS Signals in South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 18 denied being responsible for the jamming of satellite navigation signals, which affected hundreds of commercial flights and ships in South Korea's border area.

   South Korea has accused North Korea of disrupting global positioning system (GPS) signals between April 28 and May 13 from the North's western border city of Kaesong.

   GPS is a satellite-based navigation system widely used by planes, ships and the military as well as ordinary drivers.

   The jamming attacks have affected more than 650 flights by South Korean and foreign airlines, including Korean Air, FedEx and United Airlines, although no accidents have been reported, according to the transportation ministry.

   North Korea has rejected Seoul's accusation, however, calling it a "new farce and smear campaign" against Pyongyang.

   South Korea "stuck to its inveterate bad habit of shifting the blame for the scandals committed by its clan onto compatriots," a spokesman for the North's Post and Telecommunications Ministry said in comments carried in an English-language statement by the KCNA.

   The unidentified spokesman blamed South Korea for spreading "misinformation" that North Korea used Russian equipment in jamming GPS signals and that it stopped jamming attacks under Chinese influence.

   On May 14, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing and they agreed to cooperate to deal "more effectively" with North Korea's provocations, including the GPS jamming.

   China is widely believed to be the only country that has leverage over North Korea, as Beijing is Pyongyang's key ally, economic benefactor and diplomatic supporter.

  
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Ho Jong-man Elected as Head of Pro-Pyongyang Association in Japan

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Ho Jong-man, who has served as vice chairman of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), was elected May 19 as new chairman of the association.

   Ho replaced its late chairman So Man-sul, who died of heart failure in February, leaving the position empty for several months.

   The 77-year-old Ho first joined Chongryon in 1959, and was elected vice chairman of the Central Standing Committee of the association in 1993.

   The chairmanship had been held by So since May 2001 but, due to his health problems, Ho was regarded as de facto leader of the association.

   According to sources, Ho has said he will support the North's transition to the Kim Jong-un regime despite opposition in the Korean-Japanese community to the socialist state's hereditary succession of power.

  
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N. Korea Rules out Nuke Test, But Vows to Bolster Nuke Deterrence

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on May 22 ruled out an imminent nuclear weapon test, but vowed to expand and bolster its nuclear deterrence as well as its sovereign right to launch satellites, while slamming the Group of Eight nations' condemnation of its failed long-range rocket launch in April.

   In a remark given to the KCNA, a spokesman for North Korea's Foreign Ministry said that the North didn't have a plan for a nuclear test from the beginning, because it sought to launch a scientific and technical satellite.

   "From the beginning, we did not envisage such a military measure as a nuclear test as we planned to launch a scientific and technical satellite for peaceful purposes," said the official.

   "Several weeks ago, we informed the U.S. side of the fact that we are restraining ourselves in real actions though we are no longer bound to the February 29 DPRK (North Korea)-U.S. agreement, taking the concerns voiced by the U.S. into consideration for the purpose of ensuring the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula necessary for focusing every effort on the peaceful development."

   The statement came one day after South Korea, the United States and Japan warned that North Korea will risk facing more sanctions and deepening its isolation if it conducted a nuclear test.

   "I think it would be a serious miscalculation and mistake if North Korea worked to engage in a nuclear test," Glyn Davies, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, said Monday in Seoul after talks with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts.

   There has been speculation that the socialist country may carry out a nuclear test to try to compensate for the botched rocket launch in April. The long-range rocket, which Pyongyang claimed was meant to put a satellite into orbit, exploded soon after lift-off on April 13. South Korea and the U.S. said it was a cover for testing the North's ballistic missile technology.

   The North has a track record of carrying out a nuclear test following a long-range missile test. In 2006, the North conducted its first nuclear test, three months after the test-firing of its long-range Taepodong-2 rocket. The second nuclear test in 2009 came just one month after a long-range rocket launch.

   The North Korean official went on to strongly hit back at a statement issued at a G-8 summit in the U.S. in mid May, in which the global leaders warned that the North will face stronger punishment in case of further provocations that threaten regional stability. The G-8 leaders also urged the North to comply with its international obligations and abandon all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.

   The North's official then threatened to expand and bolster its nuclear deterrent, continue legitimately exercising its sovereign right to launch satellites to build an economic power and take other countermeasures for self-defense.

   "Absolutely intolerable is G-8's reckless political provocation to violate the sacred sovereignty of the DPRK (North Korea) steeped in the bad habit of supporting the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK in disregard of justice and truth. We will bravely frustrate all the obstructions of the hostile forces and continue legitimately exercising our sovereign right to launch satellites to meet the indispensable requirements for building an economic power," said the official.

   "We had access to nuclear deterrence for self-defense because of the hostile policy of the U.S. to stifle the DPRK by force and we will expand and bolster it nonstop as long as this hostile policy goes on. If the U.S. persists in its moves to ratchet up sanctions and pressure upon us despite our peace-loving efforts, we will be left with no option but to take counter-measures for self-defense."

  (END)
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