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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 231 (October 11, 2012)

N. Korea Appoints Hwang Min as Agriculture Minister, Replacing Ri Kyong-sik

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has named Hwang Min as the new agriculture minister for the country, replacing Ri Kyong-sik, amid recent speculations of possible agricultural reforms by the socialist regime.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 4 introduced Hwang as the Minister of Agriculture in its news report on the opening of a pig farm in Hoeryong City, North Hamgyong Province, instead of the previous minister Ri Kyong-sik.

   Hwang, who has been elected as representative of the Supreme People's Assembly in March 2009, served as head of an agricultural committee for North Hamgyong Province since August last year.

   The North's previous Minister of Agriculture Ri, who was appointed to the post in March 2011, has not been mentioned in the country's media since he attended a ceremony on June 18 marking the 48th anniversary of when late leader Kim Jong-il started working in the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea.

   The news of the replacement comes as North Korea watchers speculate that the socialist state may be considering market-oriented agricultural reforms in recent months.

   Also, North Korea's Ministry of Agriculture on Oct. 4 signed a memorandum of understanding with its Chinese counterpart for cooperation in developing the agricultural sector, according to the KCNA.


N. Korea Says S. Korea's Presidential Poll Opportunity for Improved Ties

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The December presidential election in South Korea could facilitate the mending of strained relations with the North, a Japan-based pro-North Korean newspaper said on Oct. 5.

   "The coming election ... can become an opportunity to end the catastrophic North-South relations," Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, said in a story datelined Pyongyang. The newspaper, published by North Korean nationals residing in Japan, is deemed the mouthpiece of the reclusive country.

   The newspaper said improving the strained relations between the two Koreas depends on whether the next administration in Seoul respects the two inter-Korean declarations forged in 2000 and 2007 under the South's previous liberal-minded presidents.

   "If the next administration in the South respects and complies with the declarations, they may receive active welcome and practical peace-facilitating follow-up measures will ensue," the paper noted.

   The declarations, respectively called the June 15 and Oct. 4 declarations, are aimed at stepping up economic cooperation and shunning military aggression between the countries as part of incentive measures to facilitate peace with the North.

   The two Koreas remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.


North Korea Renames Police Academy After Late Leader Kim Jong-il

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea renamed a police university after late leader Kim Jong-il under the direction of his son and current leader Kim Jong-un, state media said on Oct. 6, the first such case since the late leader died in December last year.

   The People's Security University was renamed "Kim Jong-il People's Security University," according to the North's official KCNA. The move is believed to be aimed at strengthening the personality cult around the late leader.

   "A meeting of teachers and cadets of the university took place on Oct. 5 to vow to repay the deep trust and great loving care shown by Supreme Commander Marshal Kim Jong-un," the KCNA said.

   The late leader died abruptly of a heart attack after ruling the socialist nation for 17 years since his father and national founder Kim Il-sung died in 1994. Kim Jong-il's third son, Jong-un, has since taken over as leader.


N. Korean Leader's Aunt Appears in State Media After Five-week Absence

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, one of key guardians for the young Kim, reappeared in public on Oct. 7, the North's state media reported, after a five-week absence that reinforced speculation she might be seriously ill.

   Kim Kyong-hui, the 66-year-old sister of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, attended the 15th anniversary marking the late leader's election as head of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) earlier in the day, according to the North's Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station.

   The name of Kim Kyong-hui was included in a list of high-ranking military and party officials who attended the anniversary, led by the young leader Kim.

   It was the first time North Korea's media mentioned the aunt's appearance at a public meeting since Sept. 1. She was absent at a rare parliamentary meeting on Sept. 25, fueling the speculation over her health.

   Together with her husband Jang Song-thaek, she is believed to have played a key role in helping her nephew Kim Jong-un solidify his grip on power after his father died last December.

   At the anniversary, Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the WPK, "called on all the officials and party members and other working people to firmly establish a monolithic leadership system of Kim Jong-un in the party and society and closely rally behind him," the KCNA reported in a separate dispatch.


Two Amusement Parks in Pyongyang Open After Renovation

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Oct. 9 dedicated two amusement parks in Pyongyang, which had been under renovation, with top officials from party, state and armed forces attending the ceremony, the country's state media said.

   The dedication ceremonies for the Mangyongdae and Mt. Taesong amusement parks were both held a day before the 67th anniversary of the foundation of the country's ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK).

   At the ceremony, Choe Ryong-hae, director of the People's Army General Political Bureau, said, "The Mangyongdae amusement park is a monumental creation by Kim Jong-un's vigorous leadership as well as the revolutionary army's eager spirit to build the facility," according to the KCNA.

   Also attending the ceremonies were top officials including Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly; Premier Choe Yong-rim; Vice Premier Kim Yong-jin; Minister of the People's Armed Forces Kim Jong-gak; and WPK secretaries Kim Ki-nam and Mun Kyong-dok, the KCNA said.

   "The renewal of the Mt. Taesong amusement park has shown the world the true face of North Korea's socialism as well as our efforts to realize the people's ideals," Kim Jong-gak, minister of the People's Armed Forces, was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

   Kim Jong-un did not attend either of the ceremonies but he recently sent a message of thanks to all the soldiers who helped renovate the two amusement parks. He also visited the construction sites previously in May to inspect the facilities, according to the KNCA.

   Earlier in July, North Korea completed construction of another amusement park called the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground on Rungna Islet in the Taedong River in Pyongyang.


N. Korea: U.S. Lost 'Moral Qualification' to Condemn Missile Program

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Oct. 10 the United States has no grounds to criticize the socialist nation even if it launches a long-range missile, lashing out at Washington for allowing South Korea to possess missiles capable of hitting all of the North.

   The North also repeated a threat that the U.S. mainland is within its missile range, and said the missile deal with South Korea will "result in endangering the security of the U.S. mainland, far from ensuring it."

   The statement from Pyongyang's foreign ministry delivered by the KCNA is the latest protest against the deal between South Korea and the U.S. under which the maximum range of South Korean ballistic missiles was extended from 300 kilometers to 800 km, a range that puts all of the North within striking distance.

   The deal also allowed Seoul to use heavier warheads on missiles with shorter ranges.

   Pyongyang has denounced the agreement as part of a U.S.-led plot to invade the North.

   "The U.S. is left with no moral qualifications to talk about the development of the DPRK's (North Korea's) missile capability as it is the chieftain that sparked off new missile arms race in Northeast Asia," the North's ministry said in a statement.

   "The U.S. has so far stepped up sanctions against the DPRK, calling for preventing its satellite launch for peaceful purposes while claiming that satellite also uses the ballistic missile technology. But, now it is in a position unable to make any excuses even though the DPRK launches a long-range missile for military purposes," it said.

   The statement came a day after the North's powerful National Defense Commission said its "strategic rocket forces are keeping within the scope of strike" not only American military bases in South Korea but also Japan, Guam and the U.S. mainland.

   North Korea's missile program has been a security concern for the region, along with its nuclear program. In April, the North launched a long-range rocket, claiming it was a satellite launch. But the lift-off drew strong international condemnation as it was believed to be a cover for testing missile technology.


N. Korea Marks Party Founding Anniversary in Modest Atmosphere

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Oct. 10 marked the 67th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party in a relatively calm atmosphere without holding massive and extravaganza events.

   The party anniversary was the first since young leader Kim Jong-un took power after the death of his father and longtime ruler Kim Jong-il in December last year.

   Kim Jong-un visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a mausoleum for Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, midnight on Oct. 9 and observed a moment of silence before portraits of his father and grandfather, according to the KCNA.

   Kim Jong-un, first secretary of the party, on Oct. 10 attended an evening concert by the Moranbong Band, a local female music group, in celebration of the anniversary.

   The young leader was flanked by his aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, a secretary of the party's Central Committee, and her husband Jang Song-thaek, a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission.

   Earlier in the day, citizens and military personnel lined up to lay flowers and floral baskets and bow for a moment of silence before the bronze statues of state founder Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il on Mansudae Hill in Pyongyang.

   Initially, there were expectations the country would hold massive events for the party anniversary as it was the first commemoration since the junior Kim took the helm of the country and the young leader places more importance on the party's role than his father and predecessor.

   Despite the calm ceremony, a festive mood was still prevalent in the socialist country. The KCNA reported that dancing parties of youth and students were held in all parts of the country on the national holiday.

   "The plazas of the Party Founding Memorial Tower, the Arch of Triumph, the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium and all other venues were packed with youths and students who gathered with great pride and honor of having performed feats as members of the vanguard and shock brigade in accomplishing the Party's cause of building a thriving nation with peerlessly great men held in high esteem at the top posts of the WPK," the KCNA reported.

   North Korea's state media editorially congratulated the party anniversary with florid praise for the Kim dynasty leaders for accomplishing "the revolutionary cause of juche (self-reliance)."

   Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the WPK, said, "It is the great pride of the WPK that it firmly established a monolithic ideological system and has maintained it even in the period when the revolution and construction have been put on a higher stage."

   The paper called on all the nation's people to consolidate "the invincible single-minded unity, the most precious gains of the party and revolution, as firm as a rock and invariably preserve the revolutionary line and principle of Juche, which led them only along the road of victories."

   Minju Joson, the Cabinet newspaper, said the army and people of the DPRK (North Korea), advancing under the leadership of the great party, will win victory after victory and surely build a thriving socialist nation of Juche on the land.