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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 238 (Nov. 29, 2012)

N. Korea Blasts Seoul's Demand for Closing Foreigner Tours to Mt. Kumgang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 22 harshly criticized the South Korean government's call for Pyongyang to halt tours for foreigners to Mount Kumgang, calling the request "a serious infringement upon our sovereignty."

   A spokesman for the North's state organization overseeing the scenic mountain resort said the South Korean "puppet group is shamelessly shifting the suspended tour of Mount Kumgang," according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   South Korea asked North Korea on Nov. 19 to stop organizing sightseeing tours for foreigners visiting the scenic mountain resort on the North's east coast while shutting out South Koreans.

   Cross-border tours for South Koreans to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast have been suspended since a South Korean woman tourist was shot to death by a North Korean soldier there in July 2008.

   Seoul has since refused to allow the resumption of the program, citing the lack of guarantee from the North to protect the safety of South Korean tourists.

   The North Korean spokesman for the Guidance Bureau of Special Zone for International Tour of Mt. Kumgang claimed, "The smear campaign kicked off by the South Korean puppet group over the issue of tours of Mount Kumgang is nothing but a ridiculous behavior of those who are reckless, unaware of to whom Mount Kumgang belongs. This is, at the same time, a serious infringement upon our sovereignty."

   Amid a prolonged stalemate in efforts to resume the tour across the inter-Korean border, North Korea last summer opened the resort to foreigners and allowed them to use hotels and other facilities built by South Korea.

   Marking the 14th anniversary of the start of the Kumgang tourism program, Seoul's Unification Ministry said that Pyongyang's failure to give a safety guarantee for tourists is the major hurdle to the reopening of the program, now suspended for more than four years.

   "In order for the tour program to reopen, we urge more sincere measures from the North, including inter-governmental talks," ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said in a briefing.

   In response, the North Korean spokesman said that a particular mention should be made of the fact that North Korean side gave the surest assurances for the safety of South Korean tourists during the visit of the chairperson of Hyundai Group to Pyongyang in August 2009.

   "It was something unprecedented in world history that the top leader of the state personally gave assurances for the safety of tourists and took a special measure for it. Anyone recognizes and agrees that nothing was clearer and surer guarantee than this as it was an expression of the best care shown for the south Koreans who wish to tour Mount Kumgang," the spokesman said.

   Hyundai Asan launched the Kumgang tour program on Nov. 18, 1998 as both Koreas widened exchanges under then President Kim Dae-jung's policy of engagement toward North Korea.

   But North Korea has persistently said the South Korean authorities and the ruling party have dared to defame even the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK without recognizing the agreement made at a non-governmental level.

   "They unreasonably shunned our proposal for dialogue for the resumption of tour, persistently insisting on the 'three conditions' including the guarantee of safety," the spokesman added.

   "Even after they were compelled to appear at the talks by the mounting criticism of their behavior, they behaved arrogantly though our side broadmindedly gave assurances for safety at authorities' level and presented a draft agreement on it," the spokesman said. "They, however, stooped to such hooliganism as walking out of the conference room."

   According to Seoul-based Hyundai Asan, North Korea is active in luring foreign tourists to the resort, which was developed and exclusively run by it.

   Calling the North's use of the Hyundai Asan resort facilities illegal, the Unification Ministry called for the North's sincere action to resume the suspended program with the South.

   Pyongyang has violated Hyundai Asan's exclusive rights to run the program, Kim said, referring to the North's unfair use of the resort facilities in drawing in foreign, mostly Chinese, tourists to the region. The North should suspend its tour business there, he said.


North Korea Denounces Israeli Attack on Gaza Strip

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Nov. 24 denounced recent attacks by Israel around the Gaza strip as "daylight robbery," adding that hostile acts should be stopped to establish peace in the Middle Eastern region.

   In an interview with the KCNA, an unidentified spokesman for the country's foreign ministry condemned Israel's recent rocket and air strikes in Gaza as "brutal acts that slaughtered innocent civilians."

   The remarks marked the North's first official position on the issue, though it had reported on the attacks between Israel and Hamas since Nov. 17 through various media outlets.

   "(The strike on Gaza) infringes upon the sovereign rights of Palestinians, and is an unacceptable criminal act that destroys the peace and safety of the Middle East," the spokesman was quoted as saying in the KCNA dispatch monitored in Seoul.

   The spokesman went on to say that for lasting peace in the Middle East, Israel must "halt its hostile acts and invasion" and "guarantee the legitimate rights of the Palestinian citizens" in order to establish an independent state.

   The eight days of rocket attacks and air strikes in and around Gaza between Israel and Hamas reportedly killed five Israelis and about 150 Palestinians, including the leader of the Hamas's militant wing, Ahmed al-Jabari.


Kim Jong-un Urges Crackdown on Rebellious Forces in Meeting of Police Chiefs

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has urged stepped-up efforts to identify and crack down on what he called rebellious elements of society, the North's state media reported on Nov. 24.

   Such calls came in a congratulatory message to a national meeting of chiefs of branch social security (police) stations held on Nov. 23, according to a report by the North's official KCNA.

   An English version of the KCNA report simply stated Kim's message praised the country's social security station chiefs for "preserving and glorifying generalissimos Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il," the North's former leaders and Kim's late grandfather and father.

   However, a separate and lengthy report in Korean said Kim has urged the security forces to find and crush "rebellious people who are maneuvering behind the scenes to destroy our unity and prompt a riot," partly confirming reports of possible rebellions there in recent years.

   Kim said the security forces must also "find those who are only waiting to unleash their hidden dagger and mercilessly crush every one of them," according to the KCNA report.


Kim Jong-un Warns against Anti-socialist Moves in Prosecutors' Meeting

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has warned against anti-socialist moves in a letter delivered to a meeting of judges and prosecutors held for the first time in nearly 30 years, the North's state news media said on Nov. 26.

   "A national meeting of active judges and prosecutors took place at the People's Palace of Culture (in Pyongyang) on Nov. 26," the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch.

   In a letter delivered to the meeting, Kim urged judges and prosecutors to "expose and foil in time moves of enemies, internal and external, for undermining the socialist system" of the North, the KCNA report said.

   "The judicial and procuratorial institutions should ... bring about a drastic turn in carrying out their sacred mission of safeguarding the leader, policies, social system and the people," the KCNA also quoted Kim as saying in the letter.

   Kim also said in the letter that judges and prosecutors should "uphold with loyalty the party's leadership with faith and conscience, stressing their role in safeguarding its socialist system," the KCNA reported.

   The Nov. 26 meeting of prosecutors and judges was held for the first time since a similar meeting in November, 1982, right after late leader Kim Jong-il was officially named successor to his father and the nation's founder Kim Il-sung. It is also the first meeting since Kim Jong-un took over power following Kim Jong-il's sudden death last December.

   Experts said the latest gathering of prosecutors and judges is part of the Kim Jong-un regime's on-going efforts to solidify its grip over core power groups as well as the leadership's recent emphasis on public security.


N. Korea, Mongolia Ink Agreement on Cooperation between Security Organs

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- An agreement on cooperation between the North's Ministry of People's Security and the Mongolian Ministry of Justice was signed in Pyongyang on Nov. 27, the KCNA said.

   North Korean Minister Ri Myong-su and Mongolia's Justice Minister Temuujin Khishigdemberel inked the agreement during a meeting that was also attended by Mongolia's Ambassador to North Korea Manibadrakh Ganbold.

   The Mongolian delegation arrived in Pyongyang on Nov. 26 and attended a banquet hosted by the North Korean ministry.

   During the talks held at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the two sides exchanged views on the issue of further developing the exchange and cooperation between security organs of the two countries and matters of mutual concern, the KCNA said.

   The border area of China and Mongolia is a key route taken by North Korean defectors and the issue of North Korean defectors may have been discussed at the talks, according to North Korea watchers in Seoul.

   North Korea has made all-out effort to stop defection of North Korean people since the inauguration of the current government led by Kim Jong-un and has strengthened its punishment on defectors attempting to go to South Korea.

   The Mongolian delegation's visit to Pyongyang followed the visit to Mongolia by a North Korean delegation led by Choe Thae-bok, the chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, on Nov. 17-24.

   Choe held talks with Z. Enkhbold, the chairman of the State Great Hural of Mongolia, at the building of the State Great Hural on Nov. 19 and met with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Nov. 20. In his talks with Enkhbold, Choe reportedly said North Korea is very interested in the cooperation with Mongolia for economic development and in the fields of port, coal and mining.