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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 228 (Sept. 20, 2012)

N. Korea Beefs up Entertainment Facilities Under New Leadership

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea, under a new leadership, seems to be concentrating its scare resources on beefing up amusement facilities, as the country tries to put on a new face following its regime change last year.

   In July, the country opened the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground on Rungna islet in Pyongyang, with new leader Kim Jong-un paying three reported inspection visits to the complex with an amusement park, a golf course and other sports facilities, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   A swimming pool, an aquarium and other amusement rides will be added to the complex, which became partly operational in July, Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, said on Sept. 13.

   A subway line connected to Rungna park is being extended to transport more park visitors, while a lift linking the park to major districts has been planned in order to attract more interest in the amusement park, the Korean-language newspaper said.

   "The Rungna People's Pleasure Park is booming with a great number of visitors," the Sept. 13 report said.

   It also noted that major amusement parks and a swimming facility in Pyongyang and other areas are being renovated for modernization, while new amusement park projects are being planned outside of Pyongyang.

   Eager for the string of amusement facility projects, the North has even set up a state-run agency in charge of managing such facilities across the country, the report also added.

   The North says the recent entertainment projects reflect its efforts for people's welfare enhancement, but analysts have pointed out the projects are probably being promoted as contributions by the leader believed to be in his late 20s, who came to power after late leader Kim Jong-il's sudden death last December.

   "This trend seems to be one of (policy results) of the new leadership, which is trying to build up social support by increasing the focus on younger generations," said Lee Yoo-young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.


Cha Hui-rim Named Chairman of the Pyongyang City People's Committee

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has reportedly appointed Cha Hui-rim, a secretary of the Pyongyang chapter of the Workers' Party, as chairman of the Pyongyang City People's Committee.

   The KCNA on Sept. 14 introduced Cha as chairman of the committee, while reporting the opening ceremony of the national floricultural show, which opened on the same day at the April 15 Children's Flower Garden in Pyongyang.

   Details regarding Cha's career are unknown, as he was scarcely mentioned by North Korean news media. Cha was introduced as a secretary of the Pyongyang chapter of the Workers' Party in October last year.

   Ryang Man-gil, Cha's predecessor, led the committee for 10 years starting in 1996 and was reappointed as chairman in July 2010 after a four-year hiatus.


North Korea Says 300 Dead, 600 Injured or Missing after Floods

SEOUL (Yonhap) - A total of 300 people were killed and 600 others were injured or went missing in heavy downpours that swept through large parts of North Korea, the country's media said on Sept. 13, a day after the socialist state refused to accept Seoul's relief aid.

   On Sept. 12, North Korea rejected South Korea's offer to provide 10 billion won (US$9 million) worth of flour, instant noodles and medicine, casting clouds over the already-thorny relations between the two Koreas.

   The floods between mid-June and late August also destroyed 87,280 houses and affected roughly 298,050 residents, the KCNA said in a release.

   Typhoon Bolaven, which pounded most of the North in late August, triggered the biggest damages, leaving 59 people dead and 50 others missing, it said.

   The KCNA also reported on damages to farmland and social infrastructure, such as electric cables, coal mines and railways.

   The North's rejection of aid on Sept. 12 disappointed those who had hoped the flood relief proposal would thaw the strained inter-Korean relations.

   In early September, Seoul made an offer to provide assistance to the flood-stricken state, to which the North responded positively via its Red Cross on Sept. 10.

   Pyongyang, however, reversed its position after Seoul on Sept. 11 proposed to provide certain aid goods, such as flour and medicine. North Korea is believed to have been seeking rice and cement, items Seoul is reluctant to provide for fear they might be diverted to the military.

   Last year, the North refused to receive confectionery and other types of foods after its requests for rice and cement were dismissed by Seoul.


North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Attends Arirang Mass Game Show

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has attended the ongoing "Arirang" festival, the North's state media said on Sept. 17, his second known viewing of the performance extolling the Kim family.

   Kim's latest attendance at the annual festival, which runs through Sept. 27 this year, marks his second reported on-site viewing of the ostentatious performance following the last time, when he was accompanied by his now-dead father Kim Jong-il in October 2010.

   Since first being staged in 2002, the show has been performed more than 420 times to date and has been watched by more than 13 million North Koreans, while 180,000 people outside of the North have viewed the show, the KCNA said.

   Kim "expressed great satisfaction" over the show's reflection of "the need of the developing era and the desire of the people," the KCNA said in an English-language statement.

   Accompanying Kim were many senior officials, including the director of the People's Army General Political Bureau Choe Ryong-hae and chief of the army general staff, the report said.

   A Chinese tour firm specializing in tours to the North has said the North will come up with a revamped version of the festival following this year's, hinting that a renewed event may feature more content in praise of the new leader who came to power last December after the country's then leader Kim Jong-il died suddenly.


N.K. Calls for Japan to Implement 'DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has urged Japan to discard its hostile policy against Pyongyang and implement the "DPRK (North Korea)-Japan Pyongyang Declaration" the two countries adopted in 2002.

   "If the Japanese authorities are truly willing to contribute to the development of the relations between the two countries and peoples and peace and stability in the region, they should roll back their anachronistic hostile policy toward the DPRK and opt for the implementation of the historic declaration," the North's official KCNA on said in a commentary on Sept. 17, the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the declaration.

   "Due to Japan's vicious policy of confrontation with the DPRK, the declaration has been seriously misinterpreted as the one for settling someone's 'nuclear, missile and abduction issues,' quite contrary to its noble idea and spirit and the prospect of its implementation is becoming grim as the days go by," the KCNA said, adding that the government of the DPRK remains unchanged in its stance to implement the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration to the last.

   It claimed that the forces of Japan hostile to the DPRK are persistently raising the already settled "abduction" issue that the DPRK-Japan relations can never be mended if Japan persistently talks about the "nuclear, missile and abduction" issues," toeing the U.S. policy, failing to realize the gravity of the prevailing situation.

   "As all facts prove, the Japanese authorities' racket over the 'nuclear, missile and abduction issues' pursuant to the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK is nothing but a wanton violation of the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and a move to scrap it," it said.

   The Pyongyang Declaration was adopted after a summit meeting of the two countries between then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Pyongyang on Sept. 17, 2002.

   The two then agreed on the resumption of talks to normalize Pyongyang-Tokyo relations, North Korea's measures to prevent the recurrence of pending issues concerning the life and security of Japanese people (abductees) and issues concerning North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.


Economic Stories Push 'Kim Jong-un News' Off Front Page of Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- In a departure from its traditional layout, Rodong Sinmun carried a number of economic stories on its front page on Sept. 18.

   The mouthpiece of the North's ruling Workers' Party filled the first page with five economic stories, including those on steel production, flood damage recovery operations and the achievement in hydroelectric power generation.

   To the contrary, stories on congratulatory telegrams 10 world leaders sent to its leader Kim Jong-un on the occasion of the 64th anniversary of North Korea's foundation were placed on the second page.

   Economic stories are gaining prominence in Rodong Sinmun this year, but it is the first time that the paper filled the first page with only economic articles.

   The newspaper traditionally placed stories about its top leader such as his inspection tours of armed forces units and field guidance tours of economic and industrial sites.

   On Sept. 15, the paper introduced a telegram sent by the Syrian president to Kim Jong-un on the first page while the congratulatory message Kim Jong-un sent to the Syrian president on the Syrian leader's birthday and the offering of a gift to Kim by visiting Chinese publishing industry delegation were carried on the front page on Sept. 12.

   North Korea watchers in Seoul have interpreted the appearance of economic stories on the front page of Rodong Sinmun as North Korean authorities placing greater focus on economic development in order to attain people's support.

   It was also not unrelated to the recent increase in the frequency of propagandized economic achievements, especially in the field of science and technology, by the North Korean media, the watchers said.


North Korea Signs Debt Rescheduling with Russia in Moscow

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has signed a debt adjustment pact with Russia, the North's state media said on Sept. 18.

   The pact to adjust debts the North owed to the Soviet Union, now Russia, was signed on Sept. 17 in Moscow, the KCNA said.

   "The North-Russian debt adjustment pact will pave the way for the two countries to further expand economic cooperation between them," the KCNA said.

   In June, Russia reportedly wrote off 90 percent of an $11 billion debt the North owed Russia, while agreeing to invest the remaining 10 percent in a joint economic program.


North Korea Enacts Law to Shore up Radioactive Safety

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has enacted a set of laws aimed at better managing its nuclear facilities, a copy of the new law showed on Sept. 13, illustrating the nuclear-armed country's efforts to prop up radioactive safety.

   The radioactive contamination protection act, adopted on Aug. 29 last year, mainly deals with safe management of radioactive substance and nuclear facilities and disposal of radioactive wastes as well as monitoring of environmental effects, according to the copy of the law obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

   The law, composed of six chapters and 50 articles, was designed to "prevent radioactive contamination and help protect the lives and health of people as well as the environment," it said.

   In its efforts to shore up radioactive safety, the law calls for assessment of safety and environmental effects before building a nuclear facility.

   "In the case of building a nuclear facility, an organization or a firm is subject to environmental effect assessment from the land and environment protection organization," reads Chapter III. The same chapter also requires them to be examined by the nuclear safety watchdog over the stability and radioactive safety of their nuclear facilities.

   In the event of a radioactive pollution, a special monitoring team will be launched to screen out contaminated agricultural and marine products while regular tests over the air, water and the soil near nuclear facilities are to be conducted during normal days, it said.

   The legal efforts are believed to reflect the North's reaction toward rising nuclear safety concerns raised by the international community.

   The socialist country reportedly operates a 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor as well as other nuclear processing and reprocessing facilities.

   The country is also believed to have made progress in the building of a new light water reactor in Yongbyon.

   Some nuclear experts have warned against a potential radioactive accident in the North, especially after the radioactive leak in Japan last year.

   "The enactment seems to reflect the North's consideration toward the international community's rising concerns about nuclear safety in the North," said Chang Yong-suk, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies of Seoul National University. It also shows the North taking necessary legal steps to claim that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes over the long term, he said.