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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 237 (Nov. 22, 2012)

N.K. Revised Cultural Asset Protection Law to Include Intangible Heritage

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently revised its cultural asset protection law in order to include intangible cultural heritage on the list of cultural properties to preserve, a North Korean newspaper showed on Nov. 15.

   The North Korean cabinet paper Minju Joson, or Democratic Korea in English, reported in its Dec. 8 issue, "The Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly has revoked the cultural relic protection law and adopted the cultural heritage protection law in order to better preserve and maintain precious cultural assets of our nation."

   According to the newspaper, the new law has language, orally-transmitted literature, traditions and customs as its targets for protection and excavation while the previous law, introduced in 1991, only covered tangible assets like historic pagoda, tombstones or structures.

   The new law, as the abolished one did, also entitles North Korea to bring back historic relics held by foreign countries and allows no one but the country to own cultural assets, the newspaper said.

   The law also includes a clause aimed at promoting exchanges with foreign countries and international organizations in the cultural asset protection segment, it also said.

   The latest law revision seems to be in line with the country's steps, taken under new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, to build a folklore park in Pyongyang, featuring its history.


North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Congratulates Xi's Ascent to Power

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a congratulatory message to Xi Jinping on Nov. 15 after the current Chinese vice president was named the leader of China's ruling communist party, the North's state media said.

   "Kim Jong-un ... on Nov. 15 sent a congratulatory message to Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission," reported the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul.

   Earlier of the day, the CPC elected Xi as general secretary of the Central Committee of the party in its 18th congress. Xi was also named chair of the China Military Commission, which controls the country's military command.

   "The 18th National Congress of the CPC marked a historic occasion ... and provided a new milestone for hastening the construction of socialism with Chinese characteristics," the North Korean leader was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

   "Believing that the traditional DPRK (North Korea)-China friendship which has developed down through generations will continue to grow in conformity with the wishes of the two peoples, I sincerely wish you great success in your responsible work," Kim was also quoted as saying.

   In a separate dispatch, the KCNA also reported that North Korean and China inked a protocol on sports exchange in Pyongyang a day earlier. The deal was signed between the Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports of North Korea and the General Administration of Sports of China, according to the KCNA.


N. Korea Again Expresses Hope for Liberal Victory in S. Korea's Election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Nov. 15 that it will help revitalize inter-Korean relations and exchanges if a reconciliation-promoting force wins South Korea's upcoming presidential election, apparently stepping up its campaign in favor of opposition candidates here.

   "If a reconciliation-oriented group takes power and moves to improve South-North relations, suspended cooperation and exchange projects in every sector will be reinvigorated," the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in an article titled "A Lesson Should be Learned from a Failed North Policy."

   "The country's steadfast stance is that (the two Koreas) improve South-North relations through dialogue and cooperation rather than confrontation and war in order to move toward peace and national prosperity," the article also said, highlighting the country's willingness for talks. "It is our strong goal and an urgency of the reality to enhance the worsened South-North relations as soon as possible."

   The North's latest gesture came after President Lee Myung-bak and other top officials in Seoul warned against Pyongyang's attempt to influence the Dec. 19 election to pick Lee's successor.

   In the same article, the newspaper slammed the current Lee Myung-bak administration's hard-line policy toward the North, also accusing ruling party candidate Park Geun-hye of attempting to copy Lee's stance.

   "Opposition candidates have actively stressed South-North reconciliation and cooperation ... while the Saenuri Party candidate is trying to follow Lee's failed North policies," the article said. "Lee's North Korea policy should never be repeated."


North Korea Shows off Illegal Replica of Shoes as New Design

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 16 introduced as the country's latest design a new line of sneakers that look nearly identical to those of a popular Japanese brand, demonstrating a case of the country's rampant illegal copying of foreign brands due to its lack of trademark laws.

   According to the North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, a Pyongyang shoe factory has "developed various new designs of shoes," one of which is made for weightlifting, with the name of the factory - Ryuwon - marked on the rear end of the sneakers.

   The allegedly original design, however, looks extremely similar to the sneakers produced by ASICS, a popular sports brand in Japan, according to ASICS Korea, the importer and distributor of the sports goods in South Korea.

   "ASICS has never given North Korea permission to borrow the design of the brand nor produce original equipment manufacturing (OEM) versions of it," a company official said. "(The North's) products are knock-offs of the ASICS design."

   Pyongyang often imports ASICS products for its weightlifters and other members of the national team, the official said, adding to the suspicions that the shoes are likely counterfeit goods.

   The socialist state freely makes illegal copies of products from popular foreign brands as the country "does not have any legal system regarding trademark protection," according to North Korea experts.


N. Korea Steps up Idolizing of Kim Jong-un as Grip on Power Grows Stronger

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has been stepping up its efforts to idolize leader Kim Jong-un, recent documents show, in an apparent indication that Kim's grip on the communist state has grown tighter.

   According to Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan, on Nov. 18, the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang has published a book extolling the extraordinary skills of the young leader.

   The paper reported that the book describes Kim as a worldly man who is well-versed in international politics and military affairs, and writes that he was a child prodigy able to fire guns and drive at a young age.

   The Choson Sinbo said it was the first volume of what is expected to be a collection of similarly sycophantic books about Kim. Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and the founding leader of the North, had 100 such volumes, while Kim Jong-il, Jong-un's late father, had 70 similar tomes written about him.

   In January of this year, the North's official Korean Central Broadcasting Station aired a documentary featuring Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, in which it claimed the new leader was a diligent student in college and completed his graduation thesis on the accomplishments of Kim Il-sung.

   South Korean media covering North Korean affairs have also said badges bearing Kim Jong-un's image have been handed out to senior government officials.

   Daily NK, a Seoul-based news site reporting on the North, quoted a source as saying Kim has given such badges to senior intelligence officials "to instill loyalty."

   Commemorative stamps with Kim's portrait were issued in August, leading to speculation that badges would soon follow. It is considered an obligation for North Korean officials to wear badges showing their leader.

   Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling party, recently began to run a new banner slogan in its top right-hand corner calling on people to rally around Kim Jong-un as their great leader. Previously, a generic message urging people to unite to achieve their socialist goals had been printed.

   Experts believe intensifying efforts to idolize Kim are an indication that the father-son transfer of power has taken place smoothly.

   These steps, experts added, may also be designed to finalize the transition period that began with the passing of Kim Jong-il last December.


Kim Jong-un Orders Refurbishment of Military Riding Ground into Club for Youth

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a visit to a military unit, the state media reported on Nov. 19, the first such move in some 80 days since his last inspection in August.

   Kim observed the training facilities and equestrian drills by soldiers at the training ground of a horse riding company under the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 534, according to the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang.

   The North's media said that Kim's visit to the unit came after the leader ordered the refurbishment of the horse-riding training ground of the military unit into a club for teenagers and workers, as part of efforts to increase the popularity of equestrian sports among the people.

   Kim's previous inspections were last made in August, when he took a series of tours to front-line military units and a women's artillery unit on the eastern front.

   In attendance were key party and military officials including Choe Ryong-hae, Kim Kyong-hui, Jang Song-thaek and Kim Ki-nam.

   Army Chief Hyon Yong-chol was also reported to have been present during the inspection. Hyon, who was promoted to the rank of vice marshal after the purge of former chief Ri Yong-ho, has been under spotlight, with attention focusing on which direction he will lead the military after his succession.

   Noteworthy is several photographs released by the state media showed the leader's sister Kim Yo-jong accompanying Kim Jong-un on the on-site inspection, marking her first official appearance by the state media.

   The appearance by the leader's sister has sparked curiosity over whether she will play a significant role alongside her brother, or take part in further official outings. Currently, it is unclear what position she holds.

   Kim Yo-jong, the daughter of the late leader Kim Jong-il and his third wife Ko Yong-hui, was briefly shown in media reports four months ago, while Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju visited the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang.