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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 244 (January 10, 2013)
*** NEWS IN BRIEF

North Korea Renews Hope for Better Ties with South Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea expressed hope for better ties with South Korea on Jan. 3, just days after leader Kim Jong-un called for an end to confrontation on the divided Korean Peninsula.

   The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, a semi-official organization overseeing inter-Korean relations, said reconciliation, unity and unification between the two Koreas is a general trend that they cannot go against.

   "We will keep an eye on South Korean authorities' future attitude," the committee said in a statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

   In his first verbal New Year message, Kim called for an end to confrontation between the two Koreas, noting "the past records of inter-Korean relations show that confrontation between fellow countrymen leads to nothing but war."

   Kim took over the socialist country in December 2011 when his father, longtime leader Kim Jong-il died abruptly of a heart attack.

   The statement is widely seen as the North expressing its desire to improve ties with South Korea's incoming government.

   President-elect Park Geun-hye, who will take office on Feb. 25, said she will take steps to open dialogue with the socialist country and seek a course to ease tension and promote cooperation with the North.

   Park visited Pyongyang in 2002 and held talks with Kim's late father, Kim Jong-il.

   However, the North's statement condemned South Korea for its recent military drill and what it calls anti-Pyongyang rhetoric by South Korean officials.

  
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N. Korean Newspaper Claims U.S. Threat to World Peace

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state-run newspaper claimed on Jan. 4 that efforts by the United States to start a war on the Korean Peninsula is a threat to peace throughout the world.

   The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said Washington will use the invasion of North Korea as a springboard for its broader plan to conquer the world.

   The article titled "The fight for Asian and global peace" argued that to ensure the world is not put at risk, the threat of war must be removed once and for all from the Korean Peninsula.

   The claim marks the first time that the socialist country's media outlet attacked the United States in the new year, and can be seen as a detailed elaboration of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year message.

   Kim said in the message broadcast early Jan. 1 that the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia remain hotbeds of tension. He then warned against plots by imperialistic powers to engage in a war of conquest.

   Rodong Sinmun added that the U.S.'s plan to launch a second Korean War can be seen in the concentration of offensive forces in South Korea as well as in Okinawa, Japan; Hawaii, U.S. and other places around the Pacific region.

   It, moreover, said U.S. presence in South Korea is the root source of all tension and the cause for the division of the Korean Peninsula, indirectly reiterating Pyongyang's long-held demands for the withdrawal of all American troops.

   North Korea has consistently called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea as a precondition to establishing a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

  
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N. Korea's Official News Agency Unveils Its Renovated Web Site

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North's official KCNA recently unveiled the new version of its website, http://www.kcna.kp, hosted on servers in Pyongyang.

   It features a much better design and many sophisticated functions, including link services among text articles, photos and video clips.

   It provides Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish and Japanese news services, and also has a search engine connected with article archives. But access to the KCNA's website is blocked in South Korea by security authorities in Seoul.

   The official North Korean news agency serves as a major channel to deliver the secretive socialist regime's important decisions and propaganda messages to the world.

   North Korea, in which the flow of information is strictly controlled, launched a separate homepage for the KCNA in October 2010.

   The KCNA had since made a few changes in its website design but the latest renovation is quite remarkable, observers said.

   "They are getting closer to the look and functionality of mainstream Western websites; subject tabs on top, running scripts with important news headlines, scrolling video and photo galleries, segmented news sections, etc.," a long-time North Korean observer, told Yonhap News Agency.

   The top of the website's main page is decorated with 26 various-sized photos linked to text and video news, including the successful launch of a long-range rocket in December and North Korean gold medalists in the London Olympics.

   The streaming video has improved as well.

   On the left side is a special section on activities by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a special news section on the successful rocket launch is in the center.

   The news menu is divided into latest news, politics, economy, world, science, health-education, sports, arts and the environment.

   The observer, who asked not to be identified, added, "Pretty soon, outside observers will start seriously comparing the KCNA and Yonhap websites" as the information windows into the two nations to judge which one is more functional, sophisticated, stylish, and useful.

   Indeed, North Korea's leader Kim, believed to be age 29 or 30, has openly stated his effort to focus on economic development of the impoverished nation, especially through science and information technology.

  
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N. Koreans Hold Mass Rallies to Implement Leader Kim's New Year Address

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- About 100,000 North Koreans rallied in Pyongyang on Jan. 5, pledging to accomplish national missions and tasks put forward by leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year's address.

   Following the capital's rally, similar meetings were held in major cities across the socialist country, where North Korean citizens vowed to implement instructions given in the leader's New Year speech made on Jan. 1.

   Those who attended the rally at Pyongyang's main Kim Il-sung Square included the ruling elite such as No. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam and Premier Choe Yong-rim, the North's official Korean Central TV and Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported.

   In a televised New Year's address on Jan. 1, Kim Jong-un called for improving the lives of its people and putting forward other missions. It marked the first verbal New Year's message by a North Korean leader in 19 years since his grandfather Kim Il-sung delivered one in 1994.

   "The New Year's address by Comrade Kim Jong-un is the platform guidelines that brightened the course of the nation," said Mun Kyong-dok, a key official of the ruling Workers' Party, in a speech during the rally, according to the reports.

   He urged the nation to uphold the top leader's plan to "build a strong civilized nation" and make Pyongyang a greater capital city, the reports said.

   Mun said, "Through the worthwhile drive last year all the service personnel and people were convinced that the cause of building a thriving nation is sure to be accomplished under the leadership of Kim Jong-un."

   In his hearty response to the New Year's speech, Mun stressed the need for officials, party members and other people in Pyongyang to perform greater miracles and innovations this year, which marks the 65th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK (North Korea) and the 60th anniversary of the victorious Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War).

   The report was followed by speeches. An Jong-su, minister of Light Industry, said that modernization of industrial light factories would be steadily pushed forward and raw material bases of local industrial factories would be consolidated. He also said the management of equipment and technical control would be improved to increase the production of quality consumer goods favored by the public.

   Jang Chol, president of the State Academy of Sciences, renewed the pledge to "dynamically wage the drive for pushing back the frontiers of the latest science and technology in the same spirit as were displayed in successfully launching satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2."

  
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Pyongyang Calls Seoul's Chief Security Advisor a 'Traitor'

  
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea strongly denounced South Korea's national security advisor on Jan. 6, calling him a traitor and a bad element who, it said, only worked to justify Seoul's hostility toward Pyongyang.

   The harsh criticism came two days after a local daily in Seoul published a recent interview with the top presidential advisor for national security, Chun Young-woo, in which he claimed the incumbent South Korean government has fundamentally changed the nature of relations between the divided Koreas.

   The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said Chun has only offered "false claims" that sought to justify what it called "the Lee Myung-bak administration's hostility toward the North."

   "The reckless remarks made by the person who claims to have come up with the so-called 'North Korea policy' and supervised its implementation clearly show the heinous intention of the Lee Myung-bak group," the committee said in a report carried by the North's official KCNA.

   "The outcome of the so-called 'North Korea policy' held by the traitor group is truly severe," it said.

   The North Korean committee also claimed Chun's remarks were only an attempt to discourage Seoul's incoming Park Geun-hye administration from adopting a different, apparently more flexible, approach toward the North.

   It also warned the new South Korean administration against inheriting the Lee's North Korea policy, saying, "Such rash behaviors will only move up the time of a miserable doom."

  
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Implementing Joint Declarations Key to Ending Inter-Korean Standoff

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Implementing cooperation measures outlined in the joint declarations reached in 2000 and 2007 are key to ending the standoff between the two Koreas, North Korea's state-run media outlet said on Jan 9.

   The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, said in an article that ending the present state of confrontation is an important pre-requisite for eventual unification.

   The newspaper claimed that if all sides followed through on various pledges outlined in the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration or June 15 Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4 Joint Declaration, bilateral relations would have improved markedly during the past five years.

   It said the June 15 declaration outlined the basis principles for cross-border relations while the follow-up agreement laid down details for cooperation that can be pursued.

   The Rodong Sinmun added that in order to end the struggle between the two sides, more actions must be taken by various groups on the Korean Peninsula and around the world who advocate unification. It claimed that by strengthening ties and exchange between these pro-unification groups, pressure can be exerted on the Seoul government to end its confrontational policies.

   North Korean watchers in Seoul said that the latest article is a sign that Pyongyang is urging the new Park Geun-hye administration to adopt a more "soft-line policy" posture in regards to inter-Korean relations.

   The incumbent Lee Myung-bak administration had taken a relatively hardline position toward the North following the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in the Yellow Sea in March 2010 that left 46 sailors dead. The shelling of an island by North Korean artillery and rockets later in the same year, which resulted in the deaths of four people, further hurt two-way relations.

   The article comes as North Korea leader Kim Jong-un also called for an end to confrontation between the two sides in his New Year's policy message, and the need to respect past joint declarations.

  (END)
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