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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 222 (August 9, 2012)

N. Korea to Host International Trade Fair in Special Economic Zone

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will hold an international trade fair in its special economic zone bordering China, the country's state news media said on Aug. 2, an apparent bid to draw overseas investment for the sickly economy.

   "The 2nd Rason International Trade Fair is to be held on Aug. 20-23," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language dispatch. The inaugural fair was held last year in the North's northeastern coastal city of Rason which borders China.

   The North, China, Russia, France, Switzerland and other countries will exhibit products such as machinery, electronics, vehicles and other consumer goods, the KCNA said.

   The trade show is expected to promote "cooperation and exchange among countries and regions in trade, economy and science and technology," the official mouthpiece added.

   North Korea designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991.

   However, due to a lack of interest from overseas, the North reinstated the city as part of North Hamgyong Province in 2004 before redesignating it a special zone in 2010, in what is believed to be an effort to lure foreign investment.


North Korea Opens Annual Gymnastic Performance Arirang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has begun its annual "Arirang Show" dance and gymnastic performance, its state media reported on Aug. 2, as the country marks the centenary of the birth of its late founder Kim Il-sung.

   "Grand gymnastic and artistic performance Arirang raised its first curtain at the May 1 Stadium on picturesque Rungna Island in Pyongyang on Aug. 1 evening," the North's official KCNA said in an English-language dispatch.

   The show, named after a famous Korean folk song, features tens of thousands of young gymnasts performing synchronized acrobatics, dance routines and flip-card mosaic animations, in what is believed to be the largest gymnastics show in the world.

   This year's show included new scenes dedicated to praise of the country's new leader Kim Jong-un, who inherited power after his father Kim Jong-il died suddenly last December. This year's festival runs through Sept. 9.

   First introduced in 2002 in celebration of the 90th anniversary of Kim's birth, the two month-long show has been held every year since 2007 to praise the Kim dynasty as well as the country's all-powerful military.

   A total of 10,000 foreigners and Koreans based overseas have applied for entry to the North to watch the show, according to the Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based newspaper seen as a mouthpiece of the Pyongyang regime.

   "The perfect performance was highly acclaimed by the audience for the acme of human culture and art," the KCNA said, adding it was "strong in national flavor and high in artistry."

   A Chinese tour firm that handles trips to the communist country has said this year's extravaganza will be the last of its kind, although another show is expected to replace it.


Kim Jong-un's Talks on His Father's Patriotism Made Public

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Aug. 3 made public its leader Kim Jong-un's latest talks with the party's top officials, in which Kim called on the participants to learn from the noble patriotism of his father Kim Jong-il.

   The North Korean media, including the KCNA, said that Kim Jong-un met with high-ranking officials of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) on July 26 and released his talks under the theme, "Let us affect Kim Jong-il's patriotism and step up the building of a prosperous country."

   In the talks, the fourth of the case, Kim Jong-un said that the patriotism shown by late leader Kim Jong-il is the "noblest" and that it "constitutes the height of socialist patriotism."

   While praising the achievements of the late ruler, Kim stressed, "All the officials, party members and other working people should actively learn from the noble patriotism of Kim Jong-il and embody it into practice just as it is."

   Saying that Kim Jong-il defended the homeland and socialism by enforcing his "original Songun (military-first) politics" and converted North Korea into "a world military power," the junior Kim said, "The greatest patriotism lies in defending the country."
Noteworthy is that Kim Jong-un made the expression on national unification for the first time since he inherited his father's power. "Everyone should bravely turn out in the just struggle to achieve national reunification true to the noble patriotic idea of Kim Jong-il," he said.

   He also went on to say that reunification is the task of the nation that brooks no delay, stressing that the division of Korea into the North and South has brought "unspeakable misfortune and pains."

   In response to the "work," Kim Gab-sik, an officer at the National Assembly Research Service in Seoul, said that it is the first time "unification" has been mentioned in the talks, indicating that the leader may try to expand his leadership over the inter-Korean relations.

   The first of Kim Jong-il's "works" took place on April 6 and was reported on April 19 by the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party.


N. Korea Reports 169 Killed and Hundreds Missing in Floods

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A total of 169 people were killed and 400 others missing in heavy downpours that swept through large parts of North Korea in recent weeks, the country's media said on Aug. 4.

   The downpours between late June and the end of July also left 144 people injured and some 212,200 others homeless, the KCNA said. About 8,600 homes were destroyed and 43,700 others submerged, it said.

   Based on a field report by its team of experts who visited North Korea, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said on Aug. 4 it will send 336 tons of emergency food aid to help flood victims there.

   The move came after the North filed a request for emergency aid earlier this week. The U.N. Resident Coordinator's Office in Pyongyang also called for immediate assistance after an on-site investigation.

   Meanwhile, South Korea's unification ministry said on Friday it is not considering offering aid to the North. The ministry said, however, that there is no change in its policy of helping vulnerable North Koreans on purely humanitarian grounds if necessary.

   Analysts say the flooding could pose a challenge to Kim Jong-un, the new North Korean leader who took over after his father Kim Jong-il died in December.


North Korea Enacts Rules on Regulating Firearms

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has had a gun control law since 2009, recently obtained data showed on Aug. 6, in what was seen as an effort to tighten control over the society at a time of power succession.

   North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un was groomed as the successor to his ailing father Kim Jong-il, with the hereditary succession plan becoming official for the first time in 2010 when the young Kim was named as a four-star general in the military.

   Kim Jong-un took the helm of the socialist country after the death of his father last December.
The permanent committee of the North's Supreme People's Assembly, its rubber-stamp parliament, established a firearms control act in November 2009, which stipulates rules on the supply, transport, storage and usage of guns and their instruction system, according to the data obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

   The law, which comprises of five chapters and 42 articles, "aims to contribute to the guarantee of social safety and the protection of the people's lives and property by setting up the strict system" on registering, storing and using firearms, the North states in its legislation.

   Under the regulations, guns are allowed only for its "primary purposes" including executing official duties such as keeping guard and training.

   Institutions, businesses, groups and the public are prohibited from possessing or transacting firearms according to the law, which also banned lending, smuggling, destroying and self-producing firearms.

   Those who violate the rules, resulting in "stern consequences," are subject to administrative and criminal liabilities, the North says in the law.

   Experts say the establishment of such acts is part of Kim Jong-il's efforts to tighten control of the society and maintain strict order following his nomination of his third and youngest son Kim Jong-un to be his successor in early 2009.

   "North Korea appeared to have tried to strictly regulate firearms under the circumstances where former leader Kim's stroke in 2008 could lead to a chaos in the society," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.


N. Korea Condemns Upcoming S. Korea-U.S. Military Drills

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out at South Korea and the United States on Aug. 6 over their plan to conduct a joint military drill later August, calling it "an all-out war rehearsal" that could ignite a war on the Korean Peninsula.

   South Korean and U.S. forces plan to stage the annual Ulji Freedom Guardian exercise from Aug. 20 through Aug. 31. North Korea has long balked at these joint maneuvers, claiming they amount to a rehearsal for invasion of the socialist nation. Seoul and Washington have countered that the drill is defensive in nature.

   The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the North's ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary that the joint exercise shows Washington's hostile policy toward the communist state.

   "This is a vivid expression of its hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) and a dangerous act to ignite a new war on the Korean Peninsula at any cost," said the English commentary carried by the North's official news agency.

   "The joint military exercises are an all-out war rehearsal against the DPRK from the viewpoint of military hardware and scale of forces to be involved in them and their program and nature," it said.

   The computer-aided exercises will mobilize some 56,000 South Korean troops and about 30,000 U.S. soldiers, including some 3,000 from the U.S. and other bases around the Pacific region.

   Tension on the Korean Peninsula remains high following the North's two military attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. The South's military has vowed a tougher retaliation if provoked again.

   Last month, Pyongyang said it may reexamine its nuclear program because of fresh signs of U.S. hostility toward the communist state, accusing it of masterminding an attack on the statues of its dead leaders by sending a defector who had fled to the South back into the country to destroy them.

   The Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice. About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are stationed here as a legacy of the war.


Kim Jong-un Inspects Military Units ahead of S. Korea-U.S. Military Drill

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected two military units, the country's state news media reported on Aug. 7, as the South is gearing up for its annual joint military exercise with the U.S.

   "Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army Kim Jong-un inspected a sub-unit under KPA Unit 552," the North's official KCNA said in an English-language dispatch.

   The North's media later reported Kim had also visited a second unit.

   The latest inspection visits, which came about two months after a similar military inspection by Kim in late May, have likely been made in response to the South and U.S. forces' annual Ulji Freedom Guardian drill scheduled from Aug. 20 through Aug. 31.

   North Korea has long balked at these joint maneuvers, claiming they amount to a rehearsal for the invasion of the socialist nation. Seoul and Washington have countered that the drill mobilizing some 56,000 South Korean troops and about 30,000 U.S. soldiers is for defense purposes.

   During the undated inspections, Kim underlined the units' war preparedness as well as the ideological education of soldiers, the KCNA said.

   "He gave them a pair of binoculars and an automatic rifle as gifts ... expressing expectation and belief that they would defend the very dear socialist country as firm as an iron wall," the KCNA noted in an English-language dispatch.

   During the visits, accompanied by a string of ranking military and party officials, Kim also stressed the need to "pay primary attention to politico-ideological education" of soldiers, the KCNA said.

   In its recent reports, the KCNA has repeatedly denounced the South Korea-U.S. military drill as "an all-out war rehearsal."


North Korea, Japan to Hold Red Cross Talks This Week

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's Red Cross will hold talks with its Japanese counterpart later this week, its state news media said on Aug. 7, a meeting likely to touch upon the issue of repatriating remains of Japanese people who died in the North.

   "Talks between the DPRK (North Korea) Red Cross Society and Japan Red Cross Society will be held in Beijing, China on August 9 and 10," the KCNA said in a brief dispatch.

   The news outlet did not elaborate on what issues the talks will deal with.

   Analysts expect the meeting is likely to center on discussions over repatriating remains of Japanese people who died in the reclusive country.

   In May, Hwang Ho-nam, an official at the North's foreign liaison office, expressed to a visiting Japanese official the country's willingness to repatriate Japanese people who remained in what is now North Korea following the Pacific War and died in the country.


N. Korea Fires at Australian Paper's 'Naughty' Medal Tally Joke

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Aug. 8 chastised an Australian newspaper that jokingly named the socialist state as "Naughty Korea" in its London Olympics medal standing, calling it a "rogue paper" that hampered the Olympic spirit.

   The rare response came after the Brisbane Metro, a regional paper based in eastern Australia, labeled the North as such while describing the rival South as "Nice Korea" in its Olympic medal table.

   "This is a bullying act little short of insulting the Olympic spirit of solidarity, friendship and progress, and politicizing sports," the North's official KCNA said in an English dispatch.

   The KCNA went on to say that the "naughty paper" will remain as "a symbol of a rogue paper" for its "misdeed to be cursed long in Olympic history."

   "Even hostile forces toward the DPRK (North Korea) heaped praises on its players' successful performance at the London Olympics, saying that 'Korea whirlwind' sweeps the world," the state news agency said.

   "In a word, the paper discredited itself," it said. "How pitiful it is."

   At the London Olympics, South Korea has 245 athletes competing in 22 sports, while North Korea has 56 in 11 sports. As of Aug. 8, South Korea ranked fourth in the gold medal tally with 12, and North Korea, powered by weightlifters, was 14th with four gold medals.