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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 242 (Dec. 27, 2012)

N. Korea Releases Interior Images of Ruling Family Mausoleum

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea released interior images of a newly renovated mausoleum of the country's ruling Kim family where the embalmed body of late leader Kim Jong-il is laid following his death a year ago.

   The North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station (KCBS TV), the key television station, on Dec. 20 released images of current leader Kim Jong-un, his wife Ri Sol-ju and high-ranking officials paying tribute on Dec. 17 to the statue of the late leader in the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the family mausoleum near the northeast corner of Pyongyang.

   The mausoleum, where the preserved body of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung is also laid for public viewing, had been under renovation to make room for Kim Jong-il who, the North said, died of a heart attack on Dec. 17 last year while traveling for a field guidance.

   The television images, monitored in Seoul, did not show the body of the late leader although they displayed rooms that feature a Mercedes Benz sedan, a cruise ship and train cabins the late leader used during his iron-fisted rule over the socialist country as well as medals and other personal belongings.

   The country is expected to also release images of Kim Jong-il's body in the coming months as it did after the 1994 death of founder Kim Il-sung.


North Korea Confirms Detainment of Korean-American

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea confirmed on Dec. 21 it was holding a U.S. citizen for a "crime" he has admitted committing against the socialist country while leading a tour group there.

   "American citizen Pae Jun Ho who entered Rason City of the DPRK (North Korea) on Nov. 3 for the purpose of tour committed a crime against the DPRK. He was put into custody by a relevant institution," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a report, monitored in Seoul.

   The report said Pae has admitted his crime committed against the North, and legal actions were being taken against him in line with the country's criminal code.

   Earlier, a South Korean newspaper reported a Korean-American, identified as Kenneth Bae, was arrested by security authorities in North Korea in early November. Bae's Korean name is believed to be Pae Jun Ho.

   Bae, 44, entered the northeastern port city along with five other tourists for a five-day trip, according to the Kookmin Ilbo newspaper published in Seoul.

   After his detention, Bae was transferred to Pyongyang for further investigation, the newspaper said, quoting an unidentified source.

   In recent years, several U.S. citizens have been detained in North Korea, but all of them were released after negotiations.

   The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, and its interest in the isolated country has often been represented by the Swedish Embassy there.

   Last year, Eddie Yong Su Jun, a Korean-American missionary, was released after facing indictment on charges of committing an unspecified crime against the regime.

   In 2010, North Korea set free Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian activist who crossed into the country on Christmas Day 2009 to draw international attention to the North's poor human rights record.

   In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew to Pyongyang to win the release of two American journalists caught during a reporting tour covering North Korean defectors.


North Korean Leader Calls for More Satellite, Rocket Launches

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called for more satellites and rockets to be launched following the country's apparent success in sending a satellite into orbit earlier December, the socialist nation's state media said on Dec. 22.

   Kim made the remarks on Dec. 21 at a banquet honoring the scientists, technicians and others who contributed to the Dec. 12 launching of a long-range rocket that put the satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 into orbit, the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch monitored in Seoul.

   Seoul, Washington and other nations have condemned the lift-off as a violation of United Nations resolutions that ban the communist country from testing ballistic missile technology.

   North Korea claims that the launch was for peaceful purposes and to put a scientific satellite into space.

   In a speech at the banquet, the leader in his late 20s said the country should develop and launch more satellites, including communications satellites, and carrier rockets with bigger capacity "with the same spirit and stamina with which you successfully launched satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2," according to the KCNA dispatch.

   "The successful launch of the satellite, an aggregate of latest science and technology, is a great event specially recorded in the 5 000-year-long history of the Korean nation which was provided by the wise leadership of Kim Jong-il and the Workers' Party of Korea's policy of attaching importance to science and technology and a great auspicious event of all people, a product of the painstaking efforts and heroic struggle of you present here," he said.

   Kim Jong-il is the leader's father who died last year after ruling the country for 17 years.


North Korea Creates 'Kim Jong-il International Award'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has established an international award named after its late leader Kim Jong-il, the state media said on Dec. 24, seen as part of its efforts to strengthen the personality cult surrounding the former ruler who died of a heart attack about a year ago.

   The North's state-run KCNA said the "Kim Jong-il international award" was created in light of his birthday and to commemorate his inauguration as Supreme Commander of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) 21 years ago.

   The prize will be granted to political leaders, prestigious scholars and leading businessmen across the world, who have contributed to world peace, social and cultural developments, and struggles for national sovereignty, the KCNA said.

   The state media said the world's prominent figures have formed an award council in New Delhi, India, without elaborating.

   The latest move comes after Pyongyang fired off a long-range rocket on Dec. 12, seen as marking the first anniversary of the former leader's death and cementing the regime's grip on power.


N. Korea Blasts U.S. Intelligence Report on Pyongyang's Nuke Threat

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Dec. 25 blasted a recent report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council (NIC) that cited growing concerns surrounding Pyongyang's nuclear proliferation.

   In an article carried by the North's state-run KCNA, North Korea claimed allegations and concerns raised by the NIC were nothing more than sophistry and lies.

   It said Washington is using a nonexistent threat to justify the deployment of its own nuclear arsenal and its so-called nuclear umbrella policy.

   The NIC, which supports the director of national intelligence, released a 2030 Global Trend report on Dec. 10 that cited North Korea and Iran as key countries that can pose challenges to anti-nuclear proliferation efforts in the future.

   The article said that North Korea, like other nuclear armed countries, has maintained a firm stance to guard against proliferation and has actively taken steps in this direction. The KCNA also said that Washington conducts nuclear attack exercises with South Korea every year and has played an integral role in helping Israel acquire nuclear weapons.

   The media outlet said because of such a track record, it is the United States that has fueled nuclear proliferation.


Kim Jong-un Sharply Reduced Visits to Military in Recent Months

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made far fewer military visits in recent months compared to his frequent visits to military units early this year, a pro-North Korea newspaper said on Dec. 26.

   According to the analysis by Choson Sinbo, deemed the North's mouthpiece newspaper published in Japan, Kim made a reported visit to the training grounds of a cavalry unit on Nov. 19 and that has been Kim's only visit to any military-related facilities since the beginning of September.

   The report said Kim made 22 reported visits to military facilities during the first half of 2012 while paying only seven military visits since the start of the second half.

   Researcher Chang Yong-suk of the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University said that Kim's reduced attention to the military reflects its diminished role.

   "It seems to be related with chairman Kim Jong-un's recent demotion of several key military officials and the transfer of some business rights away from the military as well as other measures taken to reduce the status of the military," he said.

   The Choson Sinbo report also said Kim has made a total of 144 reported public outings so far this year with visits to economic facilities accounting for the biggest share of 22.2 percent.

   Military visits represented 20 percent, followed by visits to art performances and other events, according to the report.