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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 212 (May 31, 2012)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

N.K. Issues Thinly-veiled Criticism of S. Korea over Raid on Leftist Party

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has issued thinly-veiled criticism against South Korea's prosecutors over their recent raid on the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party (UPP), some of whose members are accused of pro-North Korea stances.

   Prosecutors seized three computer servers of the UPP on May 22 after an 18-hour standoff between investigators and party officials. The surprise raid comes amid internal strife over how to revive the party torn apart by allegations of a rigged primary.

   The servers contain information on the party members, though computer programs used in the primary designed to select its proportional representation candidates for the April 11 elections remained missing.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the party's condemnation against prosecutors over the raid in what could be Pyongyang's indirect criticism against South Korea.

   The raid was an "explicit politically-motivated suppression and a revelation of the sinister intention to shake the foundation of the progressive party," a party official said in a news conference in Seoul on May 22, according to a KCNA dispatch on May 24.

   The five-month-old party is in a crisis over separate accusations that some of its lawmakers-elect and rank-and-file party members embraced North Korea's guiding "juche" ideology of self-reliance.

   The North's apparent criticism came amid a looming standoff between the party's two rival factions over how to handle the fate of two lawmakers-elect and 12 other candidates accused of being involved in the rigged primary.

   Six of the 14 candidates were elected as UPP lawmakers last month under the proportional representation system, which allocates seats to parties according to the numbers of votes they receive.

   The party has given the 14 people a second ultimatum to resign by May 25 noon or face expulsion. The left-wing party said 10 out of 14 have either tendered their resignations or expressed intention to do so, though two lawmakers-elect and two other candidates rejected the ultimatum.

   Lee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon, the two lawmakers-elect, would become independent lawmakers-elect if they are expelled from their party. The two were both convicted of engaging in pro-North Korean activities in the past.

  
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North Korea Steps up Fight against Drought in Western Regions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is stepping up its fight against drought as a prolonged dry spell in the rice-planting season could deal a blow to food production and negatively impact the rule of the its new young leader.

   The impoverished nation's main Rodong Sinmun newspaper, state television and other media outlets are urging citizens to utilize every possible source of water to irrigate rice paddies, while also offering advice on how to help other crops overcome drought.

   The KCNA said on May 25 that western regions of the North have received little rain for a month since April 26. If no rain falls by the end of the month, it will be the driest May for most western regions of the nation since 1962, the agency said.

   The news agency reported on May 27 that many people have been mobilized across the nation to minimize damage from the drought and that the cabinet and the agriculture ministry are putting together emergency measures.

   North Korean Premier Choe Yong-rim visited farms in the western Hwanghae Province on May 26 to check the situation, the KCNA said. Choe was quoted as urging farmers to finish rice planting successfully, saying resolving food problems is one of the country's most important issues.

   New leader Kim Jong-un has stressed the importance of food production in the two personal statements he has made to the people this year. A bad harvest could deal a blow to his regime as he tries to consolidate his grip on power.

   The North has relied on outside food aid to feed its 24-million population since natural disasters and mismanagement devastated its economy in the mid-1990s.

  
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N. Korea Quickly Makes Documentaries of Leader's Inspection Trips

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state television has aired a series of documentaries of leader Kim Jong-un soon after his inspection trips, in an apparent move to help the young leader gain public support.

   The (North) Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station (KCBS TV) films on Kim on May 26, just two days after he toured an amusement park, an ice rink and a street in Pyongyang.

   The state television aired the new documentaries three times on May 25 in a move apparently designed to show the public Kim's face more frequently.

   On May 26, the television station also aired a documentary on Kim Jong-un just after he inspected a zoo in Pyongyang.

   The rare move represents a dramatic change to the state television, which used to make a documentary of Kim's father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il, about a month after the senior Kim's inspection trips.

   The move also suggests that the North has been mobilizing the state propaganda machine to give the public more coverage of its new leader Kim Jong-un and help him consolidate his power.

   Kim has made frequent inspection trips across the country in an apparent attempt to bolster his support from the public since he took over the country following the December death of his father.

  
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North Korea Lashes Out at U.S. for Recent Human Rights Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has lashed out at the United States for its recent annual report critical of Pyongyang's dismal human rights conditions, calling the move a "product of the U.S. hostile policy" toward the North.

   "We bitterly condemn the despicable human rights report worked out by the U.S.," the foreign ministry said in an English-language statement carried late May 29 by the country's official news agency.

   The ministry claimed that the U.S. report is based on rumors concocted by a handful of traitors and criminals who left their homeland, referring to North Korean defectors in the South.

   South Korea is home to more than 23,500 North Korean defectors. Many of them have testified about a wide range of human rights abuses in the socialist country, including torture, public executions and political prison camps.

   The North's angry reaction came days after the U.S. State Department said in an annual report that the North's human rights conditions remain "extremely poor."

   The report said that North Korea subjected its 24 million people to rigid controls over many aspects of their lives and that there continued to be reports of a vast network of political prison camps in which conditions were often harsh and life threatening.

   Amnesty International, a London-based human rights advocacy group, also estimated in its separate annual report that up to 200,000 prisoners were held in horrific conditions in six sprawling political prison camps.

   The North has flatly denied accusations of its alleged rights abuses, describing them as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

   "The U.S. unchanged human rights racket against the (North) is, in essence, a product of the U.S. hostile policy toward the (North) to isolate and stifle at any cost its socialist system," the foreign ministry statement said.

   It also accused the U.S of being the "world's worst human rights abuser," claiming the U.S. has massacred hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in different parts of the world through aggression and interference.

  
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N. Korea Calls Itself 'Nuclear-armed State' in Revised Constitution

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea calls itself a "nuclear-armed state" in its recently revised constitution, according to its full text confirmed on May 30 in the North's "Naenara" web site.

   Following December's death of leader Kim Jong-il, the North has revised its constitution to add three new sentences and one of them contains the term of a nuclear-armed state.

   "National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il has turned our fatherland into an invincible state of political ideology, a nuclear-armed state and an indomitable military power, paving the ground for the construction of a strong and prosperous nation," part of the revised constitution says.

   The North's previous constitution last revised on April 9, 2010, didn't contain such a term as nuclear-armed state.

   The revised constitution also idolized Kim Jong-il and elevated his standing equal to his father and the North's founder Kim Il-sung. Indeed, it refers to both Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il as the "sun of (North) Korean people" and "elder of world politics."

   Established on Sept. 8, 1948, the North Korean constitution had been revised in 1972, 1992, 1998, 2009 and 2010.

  (END)
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