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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 246 (January 24, 2013)

N. Korea Attacks Japan PM Abe's Attempt to Revise Past War Apology

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Jan. 17 attacked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's attempt to revise predecessors' war apology, and urged Tokyo to come clean about its war crimes including sexual enslavement.

   The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) picked up in Seoul denounced Abe in a commentary for making "reckless remarks denying the history of its past crimes," referring to the Dec. press conference in which Abe was said to be hoping to rewrite the apology issued in 1993 by former Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono.

   "Now is time for Japan to break not only with its disgraceful history of crimes but with the inglorious past," the KCNA commentary said. "The Japanese authorities would be well advised to face up to the past, the present and the future and make a right bold decision."

   "How Japan approaches its past history is a touchstone showing whether it will achieve progress and prosperity as a normal state and pacifist state or remain a state for militarist aggression and go to its final ruin," according to the KCNA commentary.

   The KCNA also quoted an editorial published on Jan. 2 by the New York Times, which called Abe's move a "shameful impulse" that "could threaten critical cooperation in the region on issues like North Korea's nuclear weapons program."

   Japan's lukewarm stance toward its colonial past -- in which historians say many South Korean men and women were forced into hard labor or sexual enslavement -- remains a major point of enragement for both Seoul and Pyongyang.


North Korea to Hold Meeting of Low-ranking Party Leaders

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Jan. 18 it will hold the first meeting of low-ranking party leaders in more than five years, during which analysts expect the country to highlight its push to build economic might.

   "A meeting of secretaries of cells of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) will be held with splendor in Pyongyang," the North's state-run KCNA said in an English dispatch, without disclosing the date of the meeting.

   The meeting, which brings together leaders of the party's smallest organizations composed of 5-30 cell members, will be the first to be held by the country since its second session held in October 2007.

   "The meeting will be a historic landmark to bring about a drastic turn in glorifying the WPK as the party of President Kim Il-sung and leader Kim Jong-il for all ages and building a thriving nation under the leadership of the dear respected Kim Jong-un," the state-run news agency said.

   The North Korean leader has highlighted the important role of the party cells and their secretaries in strengthening the broader party, according to the report.

   After first convening the meeting of party cell leaders in March 1994, the country underlined the importance of their roles in building an economically strong country at the second gathering in 2007.

   Analysts in Seoul predicted that the forthcoming meeting will also be focused on emphasizing the country's push to build economic power and to prop up the livelihoods of ordinary people, tasks underlined in Kim's New Year's message read to state-run television and radio stations on Jan. 1.

   The meeting seems to be part of the Kim regime's efforts to solidify its power and rally support for the leader's policies, analysts said.


North Korean Newspaper Calls for Withdrawal of USFK

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean newspaper on Jan. 21 accused the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) of being a hotbed of crime and called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the Korean Peninsula.

   An article carried by Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, claimed U.S. soldiers have fueled social problems and corrupted ordinary people.

   It said a U.S. soldier was recently caught bringing in illegal drugs and that the conduit for such transactions was the military mail service. The wife of the soldier was also accused of selling illegal narcotics.

   The paper stressed that with the end of the Cold War, Washington has no legitimate reason to station its troops in South Korea.

   It argued that describing the USFK as a deterrent force to ensure regional peace and security is nothing more than an attempt to forcefully occupy the South forever.

   The USFK was set up in 1954 right after the Korean War (1950-53) and currently has some 28,500 military personnel stationed in South Korea with the bulk being Army troops assigned to the U.S. 2nd Infantry Division.


N. Korea Sends 'Ultimatum' to U.S. on Nuke Issue: Newspaper

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea delivered an "ultimatum" to the United States on the nuclear issue that calls for a negotiated settlement to outstanding security concerns, a paper representing Pyongyang's interests said on Jan. 21.

   Choson Sinbo, the official paper of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, claimed the Kim Jong-un government sent the message to Washington, but did not elaborate on the exact date, the delivery means or contents of the message.

   Kim took power in late 2011, after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il. Compared to his father, he has called for dialogue and made economic growth a top priority in the running of the impoverished country.

   The paper printed in Japan said that if the United States maintains it hostile policy stance toward North Korea, Pyongyang will have no choice but to hold onto its nuclear weapons arsenal for some time, and halt all non-proliferation talks on the matter.

   It said that the leadership in the North has placed great importance on making changes, creating a new innovative environment and seeking understanding on security issues with other countries.

   Choson Sinbo said that with the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's second term in office, there is the likelihood of intensified diplomatic efforts, and argued it is important to urge the administration to make correct choices in the future. It pointed out that in a 2007 inter-Korean summit meeting, there had been a proposal outlining the need for leaders of three or four countries to meet and declare an end to the Korean War (1950-53).

   This year marks the 60th anniversary of the cease-fire armistice that ended the conflict. No peace treaty was ever signed after the end of hostilities, so the two Koreas are technically still at war.

   The media outlet, meanwhile, pointed out that the Oct. 4 joint declaration, reached between late President Roh Moo-hyun and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il, called for the creation of a perpetual "peace regime" on the Korean Peninsula and outlined the need for leaders from interested parties to meet and make the critical announcement that can resolve many outstanding issues.


N. Korean Media Spotlights Low-ranking Party Leaders Meeting

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean media on Jan. 22 spotlighted the planned meeting of low-ranking ruling party leaders who can help set the future course of the country.

   Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said in a front page editorial that there is a need to maximize the role of secretaries that lead cells, the smallest organized groups within the WPK that are made up of 5-30 members.

   The newspaper picked up in Seoul said such a step is needed if the country is to successfully follow through on the New Year's message announced by Kim Jong-un. Kim, who took over ruling the country after the sudden death of his father in Dec. 2011, has called for the creation of an economically powerful North Korea.

   The exact date of the secretaries meeting has not been announced, but if it takes place, it will be the first time in five years that the communist country has held such a gathering. The last meeting of secretaries of party cells took place in Oct. 2007, while the first was held on March 1994.

   Rodong Sinmun also claimed the country's founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il had all moved to strengthen the role of secretaries. It stressed, without elaborating on details, that once the meeting is convened it will contribute to establishing a key milestone in the country's history.

   Meanwhile, North Korea observers in Seoul speculated that the cells meeting aims to strengthen the power of the WPK with the new leader entering his second year of rule. They added that by mobilizing the party's smallest organization, Pyongyang may be trying to receive a boost in implementing policies aimed at fueling economic growth.


N. Korea Bristles at Media Reports about Leader's Alleged Surgery

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea bristled on Jan. 23 at foreign media reports that leader Kim Jong-un could have undergone plastic surgery to look more like his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung, calling them a "smear campaign" against the country.

   Earlier January, a Chinese TV station reported that the young leader received plastic surgery to make him more resemble the founding leader. The TV report quoted a Chinese journalist as saying that a North Korean diplomat had confirmed it to a visiting Chinese official.

   "Hostile forces and paid media are working hard to find a way-out in a smear campaign against the DPRK (North Korea)," the North's official KCNA said in a commentary.

   Without mentioning the Chinese TV report, the KCNA directed its anger at South Korean media, accusing them of "floating a fictitious story to tarnish the ever-more growing dignity and authority of the supreme headquarters of the DPRK.

   "The vituperation made by hostile forces only reflects the fear and uneasiness of those who were much upset by the international dignity of the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and its single-minded unity," it said.

   "They even cooked up the story of 'suspicion of operation' something unimaginable," it said.

   Ever since the North's young leader appeared in public as heir-apparent, there have been rumors that he could have undergone plastic surgery to create an image similar to that of his charismatic grandfather so as to boost his position as the country's next leader.

   Kim Jong-un took over as leader after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.


North Korea Boasts Development of High-performance Computer

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Jan. 23 it has developed a high-performance computer that can be used to automate various industrial production processes.

   Rodong Sinmun, a major newspaper representing the country's all-powerful Workers' Party of Korea, said in an article that a North Korean joint venture has developed the "Noul" computer model, an all-in-one computer which resembles those built into a single unit and used widely across the world.

   A computer that can be used at industrial sites was needed in order to computerize facilities and enhance production processes, Rodong Sinmun article said, claiming "the newly developed Noul is superior to previous models."

   Noul is also cheaper to produce than other models and has a larger memory capacity and quick processing time that allow it to respond quickly to changes, the newspaper said. "The interface is in Korean thus easy to use" for workers and technicians at industrial sites, it said.

   A few factories and power plants have started to use the new computer, it also noted.

   "The development of our own industrial computer secures a technical guarantee to speed up our fight to computerize facilities and production processes, major tasks proclaimed in our supreme leader's (Kim Jong-un) New Year's message and the last will of our general (Kim Jong-il)," the article said.

   The joint venture firm is striving to further improve the quality of the high-performance computer and increase its use in the country's factories, Rodong Sinmun said.

   Kim Jong-un took over running the country in late 2011 after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il.