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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 233 (October 25, 2012)

South Korea Returns Dead Body of North Korean Solider

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea returned the body of a North Korean soldier to his homeland on Oct. 18, nearly two months after the body was swept across the border by floodwaters.

   South Korea retrieved the body from the Hantan River in Gangwon Province on Aug. 23.

   The body's return has been delayed due to scheduling conflicts. On Oct. 18, North Korean officials showed up in the truce village Panmunjom and took control of the body, the United Nations Command said.

   The latest delivery came two years after South Korea handed over a North Korean solider who was found near a dam on the eastern front in September 2010, according to the military.

   The two Koreas are still technically at war after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.


N. Korea Levies US$160,000 in Taxes on 8 S. Korean Firms in Kaesong Complex

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has imposed hefty taxes on eight South Korean firms operating in the joint industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong, a Seoul government official said on Oct. 19.

   "Eight out of 123 South Korean companies in the Kaesong complex were slapped with taxes totaling US$160,000," the Unification Ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

   Of the eight firms, one was levied $87,000 and another was ordered to pay $30,000, the official said, adding another firm has already paid around $20,000 in taxes to the North.

   Pyongyang has also demanded 21 South Korean firms in the joint complex submit several documents related to their accounting practices, the official said, a move seen as preparation for further taxation.

   Such moves came after Pyongyang unilaterally revised rules in August on operations of South Korean companies in the inter-Korean complex, which call for maximum fines of 200 times any unreported revenues, scrapping a ban on retroactive taxation, and more detailed documentation of purchases of raw materials and accounting practices, among other demands.

   As part of efforts to extract taxes, the North is reportedly threatening a ban on the movement of goods and people in and out of the complex if the taxes are not paid, according to other sources here familiar with the issue.

   The joint industrial park in the North's 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.

   It was designed to combine cheap North Korean labor with South Korean capital and technology.

   As of end-August, a total of 52,881 North Koreans were working for 123 labor-intensive South Korean plants there, according to government data.


N. Korean Fishing Boat Violates Western Sea Border Again

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean fishing boat briefly sailed into South Korean waters across the western sea border on Oct. 19 but returned after South Korean patrol boats broadcast warning signs, the South's Navy said.

   The North Korean fishing boat was spotted crossing the maritime border in the Yellow Sea, called the Northern Limit Line (NLL), at 2:22 p.m. and sailing 740 meters into waters controlled by South Korea near its island, Yeonpyeong, it said.

   The Northern vessel retreated at around 3:06 p.m. after warning signs were broadcast by South Korean patrol boats, the Navy said.

   It was the seventh border violation by North Korean fishing boats in the area since September, the Navy said.

   "At present there seems to be no special activities taking place in North Korea, "a Navy officer said, referring to the latest security situation in the area following the incident.

   Tension remains high in the area which is the scene of a series of deadly naval clashes between the two Koreas in 1999. 2002 and 2009. In 2010, North Korea shelled a South Korean border island, killing four people, including two civilians.


Three Private Groups Approved to Send Aid Goods to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Three private aid groups were given approval for their plans to send aid goods to North Korea, Seoul's Unification Ministry said on Oct. 22.

   The ministry said it gave permission to three small private groups, including "Toward Peace in Korea," to ship a total of 200 million won (US$181,077) worth of food, nutritional supplements and other aid goods to nurseries and hospitals in the North.

   The goods will be shipped via either China or the land border between the two countries, it said.

   Cross-border shipments of goods or trips by South Koreans require the ministry's approval since the countries are technically at war. The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not in a peace treaty.

   The South Korean government also offered to provide relief aid goods to the North in September, but the North rejected the offer, protesting the amount and types of goods Seoul proposed.