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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 232 (October 18, 2012)

North Korea Blasts Japan over Lack of Compensation for War Crimes

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Oct. 11 slammed Japan for failing to properly apologize and compensate for its past crimes including the issue of forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II, saying North Korea-Japan relations "cannot exist" without settling such matters first.

In a commentary titled "North Korea-Japan relations lie in settling past errors," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) criticized Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other politicians for shirking their responsibility to apologize for Japan's wartime atrocities, adding that "bilateral ties cannot exist without settling history disputes."

   "It is outrageous that the Japanese prime minister and politicians are discussing a so-called 'comprehensive solution to history disputes' with the international community while blaming us for the current tension between North Korea and Japan," the commentary said.

   Some 200,000 Korean women were forced to provide sex services to Japanese troops, according to historians. The issue is seen as a symbol of Japan's brutal colonization of Korea from 1910 until 1945.

   The commentary went on further to say that, "The Japanese government's extreme rightists lack the willingness to admit to their wrongdoings and make a fresh start."

   "Japan is damaging its own national image and will be distrusted by the international community as they are not sincere in apologizing for their war crimes and are instead exhibiting an arrogant and stubborn attitude by avoiding the matter."

   Earlier on Oct. 9, Japanese news media reported that Pyongyang and Tokyo may soon hold talks between officials in the foreign ministries, possibly in mid-October.

   The two countries, however, have yet to hold talks despite an agreement made between officials from the two sides in Beijing back in late August to hold more senior-level talks on issues of mutual concerns in the near future.


Paintings of Marx, Lenin Taken Down in Pyongyang's Main Square

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Paintings of leading socialist revolutionaries, some of the main socialist symbols in Pyongyang's square, have been removed, a U.S. Web site that follows North Korea says, hinting at a major change in the country's ideological stance.

   "It appears that the (Kim Il-sung) square's paintings of (Karl) Marx and (Vladimir) Lenin have been permanently removed," NK News on Oct. 12 said on its Web site, citing a study of recent tourist photos.

   The North's all-powerful Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) amended its charter in 1980 to replace "Marxism-Leninism" with Kim Il-sung's ideology as its ideological base and the country's Constitution was revised in 2009 to drop the reference to "Communism", the Web site said.

   Despite those changes, the symbolic portraits had remained before being removed recently, it reported, adding "It is unclear why now they are no longer appropriate."

   The Web site also said a large iconic portrait of an "austere-looking" Kim Il-sung was taken down from a ministerial building in the square but a painting of a jovial Kim Il-sung now sits alongside a new painting of late leader Kim Jong-il.

   The reported changes in the face of the main square came as new leader Kim Jong-un seeks to consolidate his newly-inherited regime with a focus on improving the livelihood of his people, departing from the emphasis placed upon strengthening military power by his father and the nation's late leader, Kim Jong-il.


N. Korea Replaces Ministers for Electronics Industry, Sports Ministry

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently replaced its ministers for the electronics industry ministry and the physical culture and sports ministry to Kim Jae-song and Ri Jong-mu respectively, according to the state news media.

   The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, published a column by "the Electronics Industry Minister Kim Jae-song" on Oct. 15, indicating a change from the former minister Han Kwang-bok.

   "The Ministry of Electronics Industry is faced with heavy responsibilities. (I will) push hard to make the education system information-oriented and modernize it," Kim said in his column.

   Other than having been reported in the state media as the head of a local institute that designs electronic automation late last year, not much has been disclosed about the new electronics industry minister.

   North Korea watchers speculate the replacement was made earlier October as former minister Han, who has also held a position as vice premier since June 2010, was last seen at an wreath-laying ceremony in Pyongyang during the Korean Thanksgiving Day in late September.

   The North's official Korean Central News Agency on Oct. 17 introduced Ri Jong-mu as the new physical culture and sports minister, instead of the former Pak Myong-chol.

   State media had introduced Pak as the sports minister in a report on the opening of a sports event less than a week earlier on Oct. 12, prompting speculation that the personnel change occurred sometime after Oct. 13.

   Ri is believed to have been in charge of an athletic organization under the military after he was promoted to lieutenant general in April of last year and served as chairman of the country's Football Association.

   Earlier in October, North Korea's agriculture minister was changed to Hwang Min, replacing Ri Kyong-sik, amid recent signs of market-oriented agricultural reforms in the socialist country.


Kim Jong-un Stresses Economic Education for Students of Prestigious Schools

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Oct. 15 stressed the importance of teaching economic issues in a letter to two prestigious local schools, in another sign that the country is scrambling to rejuvenate its economy.

   Kim sent the letters last week to teachers and students of Mangyongdae Revolutionary School and Kang Pan-sok Revolutionary School, celebrating the 65th founding anniversary of the schools.

   In the letter, carried in an English-language dispatch by the country's state-run KCNA, Kim said "Kang Pan Sok Revolutionary School should raise the quality of education in economic subjects and bring up all students to be women revolutionaries of Songun (military-first) era and true daughters of the party who can successfully perform the core role in the drive for building a great Mt. Paektu nation."

   In the same letter, Kim also called for the schools' efforts to educate their students for "a high level of scientific and technological knowledge."

   The schools are special education institutions with access granted only to the children of war dead, or other high-ranking officials' families.

   Reflecting the North's increasing interest in education, the country's rubber-stamp parliament Supreme People's Assembly extended compulsory education by one year to a total of 12 years last month.

   The country has also sent a team of about 20 government and college officials to Sweden for a two-week visit aimed at studying the principles of market economies, according to sources. 


N. Korea Will Turn into Knowledge-based Economic Power: U.N. Delegate

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has set a goal of turning itself into a knowledge-based economic power in the future by relying on the latest science and technology, a North Korean diplomat said recently.

   The diplomat, who attended the ongoing United Nations General Assembly, said in a speech on Oct. 10 that the socialist country is making strenuous efforts under the leadership of Kim Jong-un to construct a thriving nation and improve the living standards of its people.

   The DPRK delegate made the speech at a session of the second committee of the 67th U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 10. The delegate, whose name was not revealed by the North Korean state media, said that improving the living standard is the supreme principle of the North's state activities.

   The delegate's remarks in New York were released on Oct. 16 by the North's official KCNA.

   Speaking about the global economic situation, he was quoted by the KCNA as saying, "The DPRK (North Korea) government set a goal of turning the country into an economic power based on knowledge in the near future by relying on the latest science and technology and is putting forward a Korean-style strategy for development and innovative proposals for its implementation."

   The North Korean diplomat's speech indicates that the socialist country is implementing a new economic reform measure after the advent of the Kim Jong-un regime since last December.

   "This is in line with the worldwide trend toward sustained development. The DPRK government, which regards it as the supreme principle of the state activities to steadily improve the standard of people's living, will in the future, too, push forward multifaceted exchange and cooperation with all member nations to achieve prosperity and wellbeing common to mankind by establishing fair international economic relations," the diplomat said.

   "A drive is making great headway in the DPRK to build an economic power and improve the standard of people's living under the wise leadership of Kim Jong-un, supreme leader of the party, the state and the army."

   In a bid to cope with the present global economic situation, the North Korean delegate also spotlighted the importance of establishing a fair and equal international economic system as soon as possible.

   He also underlined the need to boost multilateral economic ties and cooperation for development among member nations on the basis of respecting individual nation's socio-economic systems.


North Korea Thanks ABU for Rights to Air London Olympic Games

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state committee has sent a formal letter of thanks to the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU) for offering rights to broadcast the 2012 London Olympic Games, South Korea's national broadcaster KBS said on Oct. 17.

   The arrival of the letter from the North's radio and television broadcasting committee was revealed by Javad Mottaghi, secretary-general of the ABU, according to KBS, which hosted the ABU conference in Seoul.

   North Korea offered a live broadcast of major events of its interest via television channels for five hours a day during the Summer Olympics under an agreement signed with the ABU, a non-profit organization for promoting cooperation and friendship among broadcasting firms in the region.

   The union was tasked with transferring broadcasting rights to North Korea from South Korea's private broadcaster SBS, which retains the rights to air the Olympic Games for the entire Korean Peninsula, including North Korea, through the Olympics of 2024.

   The ABU also invited six North Korean television production workers to London to have them cover Olympic events for the first time in the country's broadcasting history.

   Established in 1964, the ABU currently has a membership of 223 broadcasters in 60 countries, and about 500 officials from the member companies attended the Oct. 11-17 conference.

   KBS President Kim In-kyu is currently the ABU chairman, having been elected last November.

   The North has dispatched 56 athletes in 11 events to the international competition, including men's and women's soccer, marathon, table tennis, wrestling, judo and weightlifting.