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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 218 (July 12, 2012)

North Korea Claims Abduction of Its Citizens by South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea demanded on July 5 that South Korea should apologize for its abduction of North Korean citizens, referring to a North Korean defector to the South who then returned home.

   A spokesman for the (North) Korean Red Cross Society said in a statement that South Korea "should stop at once such criminal acts and apologize for them," claiming, "Pak Jong-suk was taken away by agents of its puppet group to South Korea."

   The statement, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), came a week after Pak Jong-suk claimed in a rare news conference in Pyongyang on June 28 that she was lured by South Korean intelligence agents to defect to the South in June 2006, three months after she fled the North to try to meet her father in China and get money.

   Saying, "The recently disclosed criminal acts of the puppet group are nothing but a tip of (an) iceberg," the spokesman claimed there are many agents from the South seeking to lure North Koreans in bordering areas.

   The spokesman also said North Korean defectors in the South who returned to the socialist country would be assured of a rosy future.


N. Korea Dismisses Reports of Order to Make Nuclear Bombs

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 6 dismissed as "groundless" Japanese media reports that the North's late leader Kim Jong-il had issued an order to mass-produce nuclear bombs by using highly enriched uranium.

   "It is a politically-motivated plot to create a fresh atmosphere for ratcheting up international pressure on the (North) as the story is a totally groundless and sheer fabrication," the North's official KCNA said in a commentary.

   The commentary claims the media reports prove that Japan's hostile policy toward the North has reached an extreme phase.

   The North's reaction came four days after the Tokyo Shimbun and the Mainichi Shimbun reported that Kim said a uranium enrichment plant Pyongyang disclosed to a visiting U.S. scientist in 2010 was not designed for civilian industry.

   Kim told officials that it is natural for uranium enrichment to be used in making atomic bombs, the newspapers said, citing leaked internal documents from the North's Workers' Party.

   Uranium, if highly enriched, can be used to make weapons, providing Pyongyang with a second way of building atomic bombs after its existing plutonium-based program. North Korea conducted two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

   The North has insisted that it is producing low enriched uranium to solve its acute electricity problem. Nighttime satellite photos of the Korean Peninsula show a pitch-black North neighboring a brightly illuminated South Korea.

   Kim died in December and was succeeded by his youngest son Jong-un.


North Korea Denounces South Korea over Activist Arrest

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on July 6 condemned South Korea's arrest of a pro-Pyongyang activist upon his return from an unauthorized trip to the socialist country.

   South Korean security officials arrested Ro Su-hui, the No. 2 official of a pro-Pyongyang organization in Seoul, soon after he walked across the border from North Korea Thursday.

   "This was another hideous provocation against the DPRK and an unethical brutal act and a grave crime against reunification as it is blatant challenge to the aspiration and desire of all the Koreans for the unity of the nation and the country's reunification," a spokesman for the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in an English-language statement, using the acronym for North Korea's official name.

   In the statement carried by the North's official KCNA, the spokesman warned that the Seoul government would pay the price for "their crimes."

   After questioning Ro for two straight days, the authorities on July 6 sought a court warrant to take him into custody for further interrogation.

   The 68-year-old traveled to Pyongyang via China on March 24 to attend a memorial service to mark the 100th day anniversary of the death of North Korea's long-time leader Kim Jong-il.

   Ro also attended propaganda events and toured across the North. On the eve of his return, Ro met with North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong-nam, according to the KCNA.

   South Korea's National Security Law prohibits citizens from visiting the North without prior permission or from praising the North.

   Ro is the eighth person to return home through the border village of Panmunjom after traveling to the North without government approval.


Mystery Woman with North Korean Leader Sparks Speculation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A young North Korean woman seen with the nation's new leader has triggered speculation over whether she is his younger sister or his wife.

   The speculation was caused by television footage that showed a young woman accompanying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as he watched a demonstration performance by the country's newly-organized band.
The footage was released by the (North) Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station on July 7.

   Many North Korea watchers in Seoul believe she may be his younger sister, Kim Yeo-jong, who was born in 1987 and studied in Switzerland in the 1990s along with her older brother Jong-un.

   Others said the young woman may be Kim's wife, citing a rumor that the North Korean leader in 2010 married a woman who had graduated from Kimilsung University.


Kim Jong-un Pays Respects to Kim Il-sung at Kim's Death Anniversary

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un paid respects to the founder of the socialist country on July 8 to commemorate the 18th anniversary of the death of Kim Il-sung, official North Korean media said.

   The leader visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the preserved and embalmed body of the national founder, his grandfather, is laid, at midnight and paid his respects to Kim Il-sung, the KCNA reported. Kim Il-sung died on July 8, 1994.

   The latest expedition to the Kim Il-sung mausoleum is believed to indicate the country's efforts to reassert its military-focused national policy as well as to induce firmer fidelity from the military.

   Kim Jong-un was accompanied by several high-ranking military officials, including Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the General Political Bureau of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA), Ri Yong-ho, chief of the KPA General Staff as well as Kim Jong-gak, head of the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, according to the KCNA.

   Kim also placed floral tributes at the standing statutes of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, his father and previous North Korean leader, before browsing badges and other articles, like trains and cars, left by the founder.

   "Commanding Army officers tightly gathered around beloved Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un and made ardent pledges to firmly secure the revolutionary achievement of 'juche' (self-reliance) under the leadership of the Supreme Commander," the KCNA reported.


Kim Jong-un Calls on Nation to Catch Up with "Global Trends"

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called on the reclusive socialist state to try to catch up with "global trends" in upgrading the country's industries, amid rumors the young Swiss-educated leader could institute economic reforms.

   North Korea's late leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un's father, was rarely reported to be talking about global trends, instead focusing on "juche," or self-reliance ideology.

   Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, ascended to power in December, when his father died of a heart attack after a 17-year iron-fist rule of the impoverished state with nuclear ambitions.

   North Korean media reported on July 5 that Kim Jong-un had visited Sunan Airport in Pyongyang and said, "It is a global trend for an airport to serve as a satellite city."

   On July 3, the North Korean leader also told workers at a sock factory in Pyongyang that they need to "develop colors, designs and emblems in tandem with global trends," according to North Korean media.

   Kim Jong-un also visited a cancer research center in Pyongyang on July 1 to deliver his resolution to "upgrade the center to global standards."
In another incident, Kim Jong-un told a group of officials of the North Korean government and the ruling Workers' Party in April that they need to "accept global development trends and advanced technologies in land management and environment protection."

   Some say the new North Korean leader might try to bring about substantial reform and openness in view of his experience at a school in Switzerland as a child.

   "Kim Jong-un, who has experience in the international community, appears to be showing his willingness to catch up with global trends," said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, Seoul National University. "This kind of movement is mainly limited to the science and technology sector, but any widening of contacts between North Korea and the international community might have an adverse impact on the North's overall systems."


N. Korea's Top Diplomat Arrives in Cambodia for ASEAN Forum

PHNOM PENH/SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun arrived in Phnom Penh early July 11 to attend an annual security meeting of Southeast Asian nations and regional powers, Seoul diplomats said.

   The KCNA said on July 10 that a delegation led by Foreign Minister Pak Ui-chun left Pyongyang for Cambodia to take part in the ministerial meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

   Pak's visit to the two-day ARF, hosted by the 10-member bloc starting July 12, comes amid persistent tensions on the Korean Peninsula over the North's nuclear and missile programs.

   Pak arrived in Phnom Penh without responding to a barrage of questions by reporters on whether he would meet the South Korean foreign minister this week.

   Earlier in the day, a senior Seoul diplomat confirmed Pak's attendance.

   "It has been understood that about 10 North Korean delegates, led by Pak, are scheduled to arrive in Phnom Penh on July 10 night to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum," said the diplomat, also in the Cambodian capital to take part in the forum.

   Pak is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on July 11, the diplomat said.

   Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's vice foreign minister, who played a leading role in discussing the North's nuclear issue at last year's ARF, is expected to skip this year's forum, according to the South Korean diplomat.

   South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan is set to arrive in Phnom Penh on July 11, the diplomat said.

   This year's forum will mark the first time that high-level diplomats from the two Koreas could have face-to-face meetings on the sidelines since the December death of North Korea's long-time ruler, Kim Jong-il.

   Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions have been frozen since April, when North Korea defiantly launched a long-range rocket that failed moments after lift-off.

   The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the launch as a disguised test of a long-range ballistic missile and warned the North of further sanctions if it conducts another missile launch or nuclear test.

   South Korean delegates said they are trying to persuade the ARF to support a U.N. statement strongly condemning North Korea's April rocket launch.

   The Seoul delegates have said South Korea has no plans to hold a bilateral meeting with North Korea during the ARF but left the door open for inter-Korean contact organized by an "unofficial channel."