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

U.S. Renews Travel Warning against North Korea

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government on Sept. 12 renewed its travel warning against trips to North Korea by its citizens.

   The State Department cited the possibility that its nationals will face heavy fines or long-term imprisonment.

   "The North Korean government will detain, prosecute, and sentence anyone who enters the DPRK (North Korea) without first having received explicit, official permission and an entry visa from its government," it said.

   The department gave various examples of troubles. "Security personnel may view any unauthorized attempt you make to talk to a North Korean citizen as espionage," it said. "North Korean authorities may fine or arrest you for unauthorized currency transactions or for shopping at stores not designated for foreigners."

   It is a criminal act as well in North Korea to show disrespect to the country's former leaders, Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, or to current leader, Kim Jong-un, added the department.

   The U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties with the communist nation and trips by its citizens there are not routine.

   Since January 2009, four U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering North Korea illegally.

   In 2010, a fifth U.S. citizen, who had a valid North Korea visa in his U.S. passport, was arrested inside North Korea on unspecified charges, the department noted.

   It issued a similar travel warning against North Korea in November last year.


N. Korea May try to Launch Another Satellite in 2015

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's satellite program appears to have made steady progress, though it remains primitive, and the socialist country may try for another launch in 2015, according to an analysis by a U.S.-based researcher on Sept. 14.

   North Korea's much-hyped rocket launch ended in failure in April. Pyongyang claims the launch was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, but Seoul, Washington and other nations view the launch as a flimsy excuse for a ballistic missile test.

   "Until today, rocket/satellite launches have occurred at an extremely slow pace, three in nearly 14 years, and none have achieved orbit. At this rate the next satellite launch attempt would be in 2015," said the analysis by Web site The site is run by Johns Hopkins University's US-Korea Institute.

   "However, given the DPRK (North Korea) statements that it intends to launch many more satellites and the fact that it now has two operational launch facilities at Tonghae (East Sea) and Sohae (West Sea), it is quite possible the pace will be stepped up in the future," it said.

   The analysis was based on the images and data that are available on three of North Korea's satellites, it said, adding how the satellite would perform "remains just speculation."

   North Korea is also building a bigger rocket, it said.

   "A much larger space launch vehicle is in development that, if successful, will greatly expand the possible missions of the DPRK's satellite program," the Web site said.


Group of Writers from North Korea Joins PEN International

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A group of writers who defected from North Korea gained membership on Sept. 14 to PEN International, a London-based worldwide association of writers pursuing freedom of expression, the group said.

   PEN International approved the establishment of a PEN center for writers who fled North Korea during the 78th PEN International Congress held in the South Korean tourist city of Gyeongju, southeast of Seoul. It became the 144th center of PEN International.

   "We will make efforts to encourage more writing critical of the North Korean regime and teach novice writers," Jang Hae-sung, head of the PEN center for North Korean writers, said.

   "We also want to let the world know that writers are heavily restricted in their freedom of expression in North Korea," said Jang who worked as a writer for North's state-run Korean Central TV Station before defection to South Korea.

   The congress was to wrap up its weeklong schedule Saturday after adopting a declaration calling for the proper use of languages in the digital environment.

   About 700 authors, including two former Nobel Literature Prize winners Wole Soyinka and Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, attended the congress under the theme of "Literature, Media, and Human Rights."

   Participants also decided to issue a statement calling for the immediate release of hundreds of writers who are imprisoned around the world for what they wrote.

   Established in 1921 in London as an international association of writers, PEN International has since hosted the congress in different cities around the world each year. This was the third time for the event to be held in South Korea. The two previous events were held in Seoul in 1970 and 1988.


N. Korean Movie Permitted for Screening during Busan Film Festival

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A joint North Korean-European movie will be shown in an international movie festival to be held in South Korea next month, the Unification Ministry said on Sept. 14.

   The ministry said it has approved the screening of "Comrade Kim Goes Flying," a film jointly directed by North Korean, English and Belgian directors, during the Busan International Film Festival, which will kick off on Oct. 4 for a 10-day run.

   Handling of North Korean publications or other materials is prohibited in the South.

   "The ministry allowed the movie in purely for the sake of cultural exchange (with North Korea)," a spokesman said.

   He said festival organizer expressed its intention to invite the film's director and actors in the North, and added the ministry will likely approve the invitation.

   The screening of the romantic comedy with an 82-minute running time marks the first airing of a North Korean film in the South under the current administration.

   The film, shot in Pyongyang with a North Korean cast and crew, is the first Western-financed fiction feature made entirely in North Korea.


N.K., China in Joint Development Projects over Several N.K. Ports

BEIJING (Yonhap) -- North Korea and China are jointly developing several North Korean ports lining its northern east coast, a source in Beijing said on Sept. 17.

   Under the joint deals struck between North Korean and Chinese firms, the two countries are re-developing as many as five ports along the eastern coast line linking the Sonbong port near the northern border to the Wonsan port in the lower part, the source said.

   The source said a Chinese official had confirmed the joint port development deals.

   "The Rajin port in the joint special economic zone between the North and China is officially under co-development and the Chongjin port is also said to be under joint development," the source added.

   The source's remarks constitute the first confirmation by a Chinese official of the two countries' joint development over ports other than the Rajin and Chongjin ports.

   The Yanbian Daily, a Korean-language newspaper in China, previously reported the North Korea-China deal over the Chongjin port development, which calls for their joint use and management of two piers at the port for 30 years.

   China also signed a deal with the North in 2008 to secure rights to use one pier at the Rajin port before reportedly gaining rights to use three other piers there recently.


Engaging North Korea Only Option to Resolve Nuclear Program

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A policy of engagement with North Korea is the only viable option to resolve the North's nuclear weapons programs, but Seoul and Washington must set "strict standards" to prevent Pyongyang from backsliding and repeating its nuclear hide-and-seek, a former U.S. point man on North Korea said on Sept. 18.

   Stephen Bosworth, the Obama administration's first special envoy for North Korea, also expressed skepticism that China, the North's key ally and economic benefactor, would wield an enough leverage to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambition.

   Washington's policy of deterring North Korea did not work, as Pyongyang conducted its second nuclear test in 2009 and revealed a uranium enrichment program in 2010 that could give it another means of producing fissile material for nuclear bombs. In 2010, North Korea launched two military attacks on South Korea.

   "So, I think we have no choice but to re-engage ourselves (with North Korea)," Bosworth told a forum in Seoul.

   To bring about positive changes in Pyongyang's behavior, Bosworth said Seoul and Washington need "a very careful diplomacy, patience and willingness, not simply to give to North Korea, but to set strict standards."

   Bosworth was the top U.S. envoy for North Korea from March 2009 to October 2011. He also served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea and is now dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

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

   The defiant launch drew strong condemnation from the U.N. Security Council as a disguised test of ballistic missile technology, and led to the collapse of the so-called "Leap Day" deal with the U.S., under which Washington would resume food aid to Pyongyang in return for a monitored shutdown of the North's nuclear activities.

   Although North Korea reneged on the deal, Bosworth expected South Korea and the U.S. to resume their engagement with Pyongyang after their presidential elections this year.

   U.S. President Barack Obama has been in a tight race for re-election in November against Republican rival Mitt Romney, while South Korea is set for its presidential vote in December.

   "I'm assuming that after our elections are over, we'll have newly elected governments in place here in South Korea and the United States. Then, attention will turn again to the question of how we will deal with North Korea," Bosworth said.

   Bosworth warned that destabilizing North Korea could have serious consequences for the global economy.

   "Northeast Asia is now becoming the center of the global economy," he said. "A severe disruption of stability in Northeast Asia will have profound consequences not just for this region, but the global economy."