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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 243 (January 3, 2013)

North Korea Disseminates World's 'Most Powerful State' Image

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Emboldened by the successful rocket launch earlier December, North Korea has been singing its own praises by calling itself "the world's most powerful state," observers said on Dec. 27.

   On Dec. 12, North Korea fired off a long-range rocket in North Phyongan Province, and immediately announced that its second version of satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 had successfully entered orbit. The outside world condemned the launch as a cover to test rocket technology used for long-range missiles.

   Jubilant over the success, Pyongyang has been increasing propaganda campaigns with frequent use of the expression "the world's most powerful state" in media reports.

   First introduced in a thank-you letter the North's leader Kim Jong-un sent last week to service personnel who built the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang where the embalmed body of late leader Kim Jong-il lies in state, the expression has since been spotted in the North's media almost everyday, according to the observers.

   In his speech during a banquet on Dec. 21 to celebrate the successful rocket launch, the North Korean leader said it is "the party's firm determination to establish the most powerful country and the people's paradise admired by the whole world."

   The Dec. 27 issue of the country's official newspaper Rodong Sinmun used the expression three times, including in its editorial which says its leader's thoughts and activities are all related to his firm willingness to make the North "the most powerful country admired by the whole world."

   Pyongyang is accustomed to expressions like "the world's No. 1," but it has rarely used such terms to propagate its national image, experts said.

   "The term seems to reflect the North's boosted confidence after its successful rocket launch," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. "We need to take a close look at possibilities the North may go on the offensive both at home and abroad."


N.K. Celebrates Anniversary of Leader's Appointment as Supreme Commander

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has started festivities for the upcoming one-year anniversary of leader Kim Jong-un's appointment as supreme commander of the socialist nation's massive armed forces, state media said on Dec. 29.

   Kim was named supreme commander of the 1.19 million-strong military on Dec. 30, 2011, soon after inheriting power from his father, late leader Kim Jong-il.

   Over the past few days, various organizations belonging to the North's ruling Workers' Party have celebrated the upcoming anniversary with ceremonies at meeting halls in Pyongyang, according to the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang.

   "It appears that (the North) is mobilizing external organizations to hold the celebrations in order to once again emphasize the leader's status to all the North Korean people and unite their sense of loyalty," said Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University's Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.


Kim Jong-un Says Rocket Launch Boosts 'Great National Self-esteem'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un again hailed the successful launch of a long-range rocket, saying the launch boosted "great national self-esteem," the North's official media said on Dec. 31.

   Kim delivered the remarks to scientists, technicians, workers and officials involved in the Dec. 12 launch that put a satellite into orbit at a banquet which he hosted on Dec. 30, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

   The young leader "once again warmly congratulated those people on successfully launching the satellite to fully demonstrate the undying feats of leader Kim Jong-il," the KCNA said in a report.

   Kim also praised them for boosting "great national self-esteem and conviction of sure victory into all the service personnel and people" and greatly increasing the "international position and influence of the DPRK (North Korea)," it said.

   While the North insists the rocket launch was part of its peaceful space program, it drew international condemnation as a disguised test of banned ballistic missile technology.

   Analysts have said this month's launch was sure to solidify Kim's grip on power, about a year after he took control of North Korea following the death of his father Kim Jong-il.

   The U.N. Security Council is weighing options to punish North Korea for violating U.N. resolutions that ban the North from testing any ballistic missile-related technology, but China is apparently resisting any tougher sanctions against Pyongyang, Seoul officials said.

   North Korea is already under international sanctions for carrying out two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.


North Korea Enters Aging Society: Data

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has moved into an aging society with the portion of its elderly taking up more than 8 percent of the population and women in their 70s outnumbering their male counterparts, data showed on Jan. 1.

   The number of North Koreans aged over 65 reached 2.09 million as of Oct. 1, 2008, or 8.7 percent of the 24.05 million in total population, according to the country's Population Census, published by the North's Central Statistic Bureau in 2008 with assistance from the United Nations Population Fund.

   A country with 7 percent or more of the population representing the aged is considered an aging society. As of 2008, the portion of the aged people in South Korea stood at 10.3 percent.

   The number of aged men in North Korea came in at 712,000, with the corresponding figure for women nearly doubling to 1.38 million, the data showed.

   The number of men in their 70s declined sharply, with the ratio to every 100 women falling to 52.6 for those between 70 and 74 years old and 30.9 for those in their late 70s. Among people in their 80s, there was one man for every six women, the data showed.
The number of female centenarians in North Korea came in at 62, among which two women were over 110 years old as of the tallied year.

   The most populated region was South Pyongan Province with 4.05 million, or 17.4 percent of the total population, followed by the capital city of Pyongyang with 3.25 million and South Hamgyeong Province with 3.06 million.

   More than 60 percent of its people represented the urban population, with the remaining 17.4 percent tied to the rural regions, according to the data.


N. Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Begins Official Activities in 2013

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un started his official activity of the new year by watching the performance of the Moranbong Band with his wife Ri Sol-ju, the KCNA reported on Jan. 1.

   The KCNA said Kim shook hands with diplomatic envoys, representatives of international organizations and military attaches of foreign embassies in Pyongyang and their wives, offering congratulations and best wishes, and talked with them at the venue of the performance. The news agency did not reveal where the performance was held.

   Kim, along with his wife, then visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang to pay respects to the late North Korean leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.

   During the performance of the Moranbong Band and visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, Kim was accompanied by top North Korean officials. They include Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA); Premier Choe Yong-rim; Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the People's Army General Political Bureau; and Jang Song-thaek, the vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and the powerful uncle of Kim Jong-un.
Other attendees include Army Chief Hyon Yong-chol; Armed Forces Minister Kim Kyok-sik; secretaries of the ruling Workers' Party Kim Ki-nam, Choe Thae-bok and Pak To-chun; and Yang Hyong-sop, the vice chairman of the SPA, as well as scientists, technicians, workers and officials who contributed to the successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2.

   Last year Kim visited the Kumsasan Palace of the Sun and an army unit on New Year's Day to show his resolution for the "Songun (military-first) politics."


Kim's Assumption of Top Party and Military Posts 'Specially Big Events'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), selected on Dec. 31 Kim Jong-un's assumption of the First Secretary of the WPK and the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC) as the No. 1 big event in 2012.

   In an article titled "Specially Big Events of 2012," Rodong Sinmun placed Kim's election as the First Secretary of the WPK on April 11 and as the First Chairman of the NDC on April 13 on top of the list.

   The designation of the birthday of late leader Kim Jong-il (Feb. 16) as a national holiday and the renaming of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, where the bodies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il lie in state, to Kumsusan Palace of the Sun also appeared on the list.

   Other big events included the naming of the late leader Kim Jong-il as "Eternal General Secretary" of the WPK on April 11 and "Eternal Chairman" of the NDC on April 13.

   The paper also included the month-long joint photo exhibition by the North's official KCNA and the Associated Press held in New York from mid-March as big special events along with massive events like the 66th anniversary of the founding of the (North) Korean Children's Union (June 6), celebrations of the Youth Day (Aug. 28) and the fourth national meeting of mothers (Nov. 16).

   Rodong Sinmun added the successful launch of the satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 showed the powerful strength of North Korea all around the world.


North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Delivers Addresses Five Times in 2012

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Dec. 31 claimed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivered five speeches in 2012 and created miracles and innovations in the speeches.

   The claim came in an article made by the KCNA, the North's official news agency.

   According to the KCNA, Kim made a speech at the military parade held at Kim Il-sung Square on April 15 to mark the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il-sung, which caused a roar of cheers across the square.

   "The remarks inspired the people in the DPRK (North Korea) with courage in their efforts to follow the Songun (military-first) politics, guided by the Workers' Party of Korea," the KCNA said.

   In June, he made a congratulatory speech at the joint national meeting of the (North) Korean Children's Union organizations held in celebration of the Union's 66th birthday, the KCNA said, adding that the speech hardened their determination to study harder to make tangible contributions to building a thriving nation.

   He also delivered a speech at a banquet arranged in August, 52 years after leader Kim Jong-il began his Songun leadership.

   "If another war breaks out on this land due to the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces' intolerable actions, though the DPRK does not want it, the war will bring a shameless doom to them and our great nation will greet a new bright day of national reunification," he said in the speech.

   His speech, the KCNA said, implanted into the minds of men and officers of the (North) Korean People's Army and other local people the will of annihilating the provokers and conviction in victory in a possible war.

   The North Korean leader made a congratulatory speech in October when he visited Kim Il-sung Military University on its 60th anniversary and delivered a speech at a banquet hosted in honor of the scientists, technicians, workers and officials who made contributions to the successful lift-off of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2.

   In the latest speech on Dec. 21 Kim called on them to develop and launch more working satellites of various kinds, including communications satellites, and powerful carrier rockets in the future.

   Encouraged by his speeches, the Korean people have made innovations one after another in the effort to build a thriving nation, the KCNA said.


N. Korea Wins Some 190 Medals at International Sports Events in 2012

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea won some 190 medals, including some 90 gold medals, at international sporting events held in 2012, the North's official KCNA reported on Dec. 27.

   The socialist country captured four gold medals and two bronze medals at the London Olympics 2012. With weightlifter Kim Un-guk setting a world record in the men's 62kg class, North Korea ranked 20th in the medal standings in London.

   North Korean women's football team won the 2012 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challengers Cup and female footballers Kim Un-hwa and Ri Un-sim became the top scorers of the 2012 FIFA U-20 and U-17 Women's World Cup, respectively.

   The KCNA added the North also has collected a number of medals in 2012 at other various international sporting events, including in the fields of women's judo, table tennis, wrestling and weightlifting.


N. Korea Presses Next S. Korean Gov't to Define Stance toward Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea called for South Korea on Jan. 2 to change its hostile policy toward the socialist country, saying that inter-Korean relations are at a cross-roads as they were five years ago.

   The North's powerful National Defense Commission (NDC) took issue with a recent series of remarks or statements issued by top South Korean leaders calling for tighter security against the North's belligerence.

   "The South Korean government must choose between confrontation and peace," the North's commission said in a statement, carried by the KCNA.

   The North's statement directed its anger at the sitting South Korean government of President Lee Myung-bak but its focus is obviously on the incoming president, Park Geun-hye, who takes office on Feb. 25 for a single five-year term.

   After a decade of liberal rule during which inter-Korean relations significantly warmed, South Korea rolled back to a policy of confrontation in 2008 when conservatives regained power.

   In his New Year's address, the sitting South Korean president again vowed to defend the disputed inter-Korean maritime border in the Yellow Sea, an issue that has constantly strained cross-border relations.

   The western sea border, commonly called Northern Limit Line (NLL), was unilaterally drawn by the U.S.-led United Nations Command at the end of the 1953 end of the Korean War. North Korea has never recognized it and is now demanding it be drawn further south.

   The sea border has been the scene of two bloody naval clashes between the two Koreas, resulting in dozens of casualties in both sides.

   The North's statement said South Korea must make a "responsible choice" about its future course of policy toward Pyongyang.

   "It is our unwavering stance that the stalemate should be completely put to an end," it said.

   South Korea and North Korea remain divided by the world's most heavily armed border. They are still technically at war, with no peace treaty signed since the 1950-1953 Korean War
About 28,500 U.S. soldiers are currently stationed in South Korea as a deterrence against the North.

   In his New Year's address on Jan. 1, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for resolving tension with the South.