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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 240 (Dec. 13, 2012)
*** INTER-KOREAN RELATIONS

President Lee Calls for Greater Cooperation with Japan over N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said on Dec. 6 South Korea and Japan should work together closely to cope with threats from North Korea as the socialist nation is expected to continue its pursuit of nuclear and missile development.

   President Lee made the remark after receiving credentials from the new Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho.

   "When it comes to the situation in Northeast Asia and beyond, there are many areas where the two countries should cooperate," Lee told Bessho, according to presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon. "As North Korea is expected to continue missile launches and nuclear development, it would be good for the two countries to unite their strength at a time like this."

   Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have sunk to one of the worst levels since Lee made a visit to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo in August, the first by a South Korea president, and Japan strongly protested the move and renewed its claims to the East Sea islets.

   Such sovereignty and historical issues stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule have long hamstrung better ties between the two neighbors. Still, they have continued close cooperation on economic issues and North Korean threats.

   North Korea plans to launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10-22 to put what it claims is a satellite into orbit. South Korea, the United States and other countries believe the planned launched would be a disguised test of ballistic missile technology.

   Pyongyang claims it has the right to peaceful use of space, but under U.N. Security Council resolutions, the country is banned from any ballistic activity due to concern it could be used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

  
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S. Korea Notifies N. Korea of Charging of Delay Damages over Food Loan

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea once again urged North Korea to repay millions of dollars in loans provided in the form of food in 2000 while notifying that it will charge Pyongyang an additional 2 percent of the debt as delay damages, the Unification Ministry said on Dec. 7.

   The impoverished North missed the June 7 deadline for repaying South Korea US$5.83 million in the first installment of the food loan worth $88.36 million. Seoul has urged Pyongyang to repay the debt, but the socialist nation has been silent on the demand.

   On Dec. 7, Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk said Seoul's state-run Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) sent a message to North Korea's Foreign Trade Bank, calling for an early repayment and notifying that delay damages will be charged.

   It was the fourth time for South Korea to send such a message calling for repayment.

   "This is a violation of an inter-Korean agreement, and we can declare default on debt," the spokesman said. "We once again urge the North to faithfully carry out the agreement."

   Kim also blasted Pyongyang for preparing to launch yet another long-range rocket at a time when its people are suffering from food shortages and the country is defaulting on its debt, portraying the planned launch as a mistake that amounts to squandering years of food for its people.

  
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South Korean Cvic Group Demands Human Rights for North Koreans

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A South Korean civic group held a gathering in downtown Seoul on Dec. 10 to call for basic human rights for North Koreans.

   The "Declaration of North Korean Human Rights" demands the release of all political prisoners, unconditional reunions of separated families and a halt to forceful repatriation and persecution by Pyongyang.

   The Young Defectors' Alliance for North Korean Human Rights said the declaration is to mark United Nations Human Rights Day.

   The day observed every Dec. 10 marks the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclamation.

   During the gathering, the group criticized the North Korean regime for moving forward with the planned launch of its rocket when it needs to deal with food shortages facing the impoverished country.

   Speakers at the gathering held at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul said it is deplorable that while South Korea is a member of the Group of 20 emerging and advanced economies, its people tend to look the other way when it comes to North Korean human rights issues.

   They said it is time that South Koreans paid more attention to the issue.

   The group is made up of various youth groups that have been set up by North Korean defectors studying in local universities and colleges.

  (END)
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