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

Koreas Again in Diplomatic War with Japan on East Sea Naming

NEW YORK (Yonhap) -- The two Koreas have informally teamed up against Japan in a war of diplomacy in the United Nations on the naming of the waters near them, sources said on August 1.

   The 10th U.N. Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names open earlier this week at the U.N. headquarters here, setting the stage for experts from around the world to discuss key issues relating to the handling of place names.

   International organizations formally call the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan the Sea of Japan. But South and North Korea insist its original name is the East Sea and that should be used at least concurrently.

   South Korean delegates are trying to publicize a nonbinding practice of using both of the names in case of disputes between countries, according to a U.N. source.

   "North Korea directly requested the dual use of the names," the source said, requesting anonymity. "South and North Korea are taking a virtually cooperative approach."

   But Japan claims that the single name should be maintained.

   The ongoing U.N. conference is not aimed at produce a conclusion on the sensitive issue but it is important in enhancing the awareness and understanding of the international community.

   During a meeting of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in April, the South Korean government made a strong pitch for the East Sea to be used in the official maps of the international community.

   The IHO, however, decided not to revise its current "Sea of Japan" appellation this time. The next session will be held in 2017.

   Meanwhile, the U.S. made clear its longstanding policy of using a single name for the waters between Korea and Japan.

   The State Department said, "We understand that the Republic of Korea uses a different term."

   The U.S., a key ally of both South Korea and Japan, has encouraged the two sides to "work together to reach a mutually agreeable way forward with the International Hydrographic Organization on this issue," it added.


Group of South Koreans Returns after Trip to North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A group of South Koreans returned from North Korea on Aug. 3 after holding a memorial service there for the late chairman of Hyundai Group, the North's partner in a now-suspended tour program to Mount Kumgang.

   Fourteen officials of the conglomerate's North Korean business arm Hyundai Asan, led by president Chang Kyung-chak, crossed the heavily fortified land border before returning through a transit office near the east coast at around 4:20 p.m.

   The officials said they held a brief memorial service for late chairman Chung Mong-hun at the Mount Kumgang resort and inspected the firm's resort facilities there.

   "We told North Korean officials about the need to swiftly resume tours to Mount Kumgang," Chang told reporters. "The North Korean officials were not in a position to talk about the tours, so we weren't able to discuss it in depth."

   Chang said his group was guided by two North Korean officials working at the mountain resort. The North Koreans did not, however, attend the memorial service.

   Hyundai chairwoman Hyun Jeong-eun, the widow of the late chairman, did not join the trip.

   Chung, who aggressively sought joint tourism and other business projects with North Korea, committed suicide in 2003 amid an investigation into suspicions the government of then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung secretly transferred a large amount of money to North Korea ahead of the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.

   Chung's ashes were scattered at the resort in accordance with his wishes.

   The cross-border travel program to the scenic mountain, started by Chung's father and Hyundai conglomerate founder, Chung Ju-yung, in 1998, has been suspended since a North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist in 2008.

   The Hyundai chairwoman held a separate memorial service in Hanam, southeast of Seoul, earlier in the day with about 200 Hyundai employees in attendance.

   Hyun said she is "positive" about the possibility of reviving the suspended tourism program. "I wish the Kumgang tour to resume so I can hold the 10th anniversary memorial service at Mount Kumgang next year," she said.


S. Korea Appoints New Deputy Envoy to Nuclear Talks on N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea named a career diplomat as its new deputy chief envoy to the six-party talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs as part of its regular personnel reshuffle, the foreign ministry said on Aug. 3.

   Lee Do-hoon, who had worked at the presidential office since late 2010, replaced Cho Hyun-dong, who is set to take a post as special advisor to Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan, ministry officials said.

   Lee, 50, has held various posts at South Korean missions to the United Nations, Zambia, Tunisia and Iran.

   Diplomatic efforts to resume the six-party talks, involving the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, have been frozen since North Korea's failed rocket launch in April. The negotiating process has been dormant since being stalled since late 2008.


Minimum Wage at Inter-Korean Industrial Complex up 5 Percent

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The minimum wage for North Korean workers at the South-run industrial complex park in the socialist nation rose 5 percent over the past year, the same annual rate of increase since 2007, Seoul's unification ministry said on Aug. 6.

   The joint industrial park in the border city of Kaesong opened in 2004 as a symbol of cross-border reconciliation and has been in operation without any major interruptions despite high cross-border tensions between the two Koreas.
The factory park's management officials from the two sides last week agreed to increase the minimum monthly wage for North Korean workers to US$67.005, said the ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs.

   The latest increase, which follows a five percent wage hike set at US$63.814 last August, is effective for another year from Aug. 1, the ministry said.

   Under the park's labor regulations agreed in 2004, the monthly wage of the North Korean workers there is allowed to be raised by up to five percent from the previous year.

   The complex in the North Korean border city of Kaesong was born out of the inter-Korean reconciliation that had boomed following the first-ever summit of the two Koreas in 2000. The complex was designed to combine cheap North Korean labor, and South Korean capital and technology.

   As of May, 51,452 North Koreans work at about 123 small labor-intensive South Korean plants there, according to the ministry.