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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 249 (February 14, 2013)

N.K. Firms, Gov't Bodies Scurry to Dodge Possible Chinese Sanctions

BEIJING/ SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Some North Korean companies and government-linked business bodies have devised preemptive measures to avoid possible Chinese financial sanctions to be imposed when the North carries out its threatened nuclear test, sources said on Feb. 7.

   "There have been signs that North Korean trade firms and government agencies are withdrawing money from their Chinese bank accounts or changed their names to open new accounts," said one source in Beijing with knowledge on the matter.

   The moves started after Beijing joined the U.N. Security Council's Resolution 2087 condemning the North's Dec. 12 long-range rocket launch, the same source said.

   Such North Korean moves are seen as "preemptive" measures against possible financial sanctions by the Chinese government in the event of Pyongyang's third nuclear test, another source said.

   North Korea has vowed to conduct a nuclear test in response to the U.N. resolution, and there have been a series of signs that point to an imminent detonation. The North previously detonated atomic devices in 2006 and 2009.

   The U.N. resolution calls on its member states to "exercise enhanced vigilance," including monitoring of the North's activities of "their nationals, persons in their territories, financial institutions, and other entities organized under their laws."

   Earlier in the day, Seoul's finance ministry said it will put six additional North Korean organizations and four individuals
on its list "subject to restraints on financial transactions for involvement in the country's missile and nuclear development."


North Korea Forecast to Unveil New Arirang Mass Games in July

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is expected to unveil a revamped version of the Arirang festival in July when the country celebrates the 1953 truce that ended the Korean War, according to a travel agency in China.

   Beijing-based Koryo Tours, specializing in tours to North Korea, has recently launched a new tour program to the socialist country which includes a trip to the border village of Panmunjom, a war museum as well as the mausoleum of the ruling Kim family, according to the tour firm's Web site.

   The tour program, which runs from July 25-30, may include admission to the national mass games although it has not been decided yet, the Web site said.

   "There may also be the opportunity to see the mass games (although) the performance is not yet confirmed," read the posting which describes the tour program.

   "We expect the games to run from 27th July to 9th September 2013 but as yet have received no official confirmation," the tour agency said in another posting on the Arirang mass games. "There is a possibility that a new form of Mass Games will be staged to mark this event," it said, referring to the 60th anniversary of the July 27 "war victory day" celebrated as a national holiday in the North.

   The national holiday has been celebrated every year with gatherings of the country's governing party, the Cabinet and the military to celebrate the July 27 truce in 1953 that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

   The country has conducted major renovation work on a war museum and prepared other exhibitions ahead of the country's celebration of the day, which the country claims marks its victory in the civil war.

   The Korean War ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two countries separated by a heavily fortified border.

   The Arirang festival mainly features a mass gymnastics performance, designed to extol the governing Kim family. First held in 2002, the year marking the 90th anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung, it has been held every year since 2005 except for when the country suffered a devastating flood in 2006.

   The new version is widely expected to place greater emphasis on the achievements of new leader Kim Jong-un, who took power after late leader and his father Kim Jong-il's sudden death in December 2011.


N. Korean Literature Highlights 'Closeness' between Leader, People

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean literature is being used to highlight the "closeness" between the country's new leader Kim Jong-un and the people, a research paper published in Seoul claimed on Feb. 12.

   The paper by Prof. Kim Sung-soo at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul is based on analysis of poems, fictions, essays and critical reviews in the literary weekly Munhak Sinmun and the monthly Choson Munhak published by North Korea for a little over a year. Kim took power after the sudden death of his father Kim Jong-il on Dec. 17, 2011.

   The scholar, who is an expert on cultural developments in the socialist country, said the works by North Korean writers emphasized the affinity between the leader and the people, with attention being paid toward instilling Kim's interest in youths and children.

   "This is different from the 'songun' or military-first politics espoused by the late leader," the professor said. He said there has also been a shift from cherishing the memory of Kim Jong-il in the wake of his death and the legitimacy of power being handed down from father to son, to focusing on the incumbent leader and his rule.

   "Literary works showing Kim Jong-un's attention to helping ordinary people have become prominent themes in various works," the Sungkyunkwan scholar said in a paper released by the national literary research institute in Seoul.

   The movement in the socialist country's literature comes as many North Korean experts speculated that Kim Jong-un has solidified his power base, despite the lack of preparation time.

   The leader who is likely in his late 20s or early 30s has been emphasizing the need for economic growth and improving the livelihoods of the people compared to a more confrontational stance toward the outside world under his father's rule.

   He, however, has not shied away from launching two long-range rockets last year, and may be preparing to detonate another nuclear device, despite intense international pressure to desist from such a provocation.

   The North tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009, with the third detonation likely to allow the country to make its weapons smaller and more powerful.


South Korea, U.S. to Discuss North Korea Nuclear Deterrence Strategy

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Faced with a growing nuclear threat from North Korea, military officials from South Korea and the United States will meet next week to explore all possible measures to deter the socialist country from using its nuclear weapon, officials said on Feb. 13.

   Bilateral consultations to draft a nuclear deterrence plan by the end of this year have been underway since last year, but Pyongyang's third nuclear test has brought new urgency to finalize a plan that counters the threat from the defiant state under its young leader Kim Jong-un.

   In its first meeting since the North's recent nuclear test, the Extended Deterrence Policy Committee (EDPC) will convene on Feb. 21 in Washington to discuss ways to share intelligence to detect early signs of a nuclear attack as well as set the doctrine for pre-emptive measures in case of North Korean provocations, military officials said.
South Korea's Deputy Defense Minister Lim Kwan-bin and Mark Lippert, U.S. assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, will attend the bilateral meeting.

   "There will be discussions about how to use intelligence assets of South Korea and the U.S. to detect signs of a North Korean nuclear attack and under what condition the joint force will launch a pre-emptive strike," a senior ministry official said, asking for anonymity as he is not authorized to speak to the media.

   The move comes after the Feb. 12 parliamentary meeting when Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said destroying the North's nuclear facilities in advance is the best option in case of an imminent nuclear attack against South Korea.

   The military option, however, is still controversial as some question whether such actions would be able to denuclearize the socialist country, which is believed to have built clandestine nuclear reactors in several other places and are guarded by mobile missile launchers.

   The former Clinton administration once readied a detailed plan to bombard the Yongbyon nuclear facility when the impoverished nation began its plutonium-based program in the early 1990s, but it was aborted after Pyongyang signed a fission material cutoff deal. Since then, Seoul and Washington have proceeded with a deterrence policy to avoid another war on the Korean Peninsula.

   South Korea's defense ministry evaluated the latest nuclear device to be more powerful than those used in the 2006 and the 2009 tests by the North. However, it is not immediately known whether Pyongyang made the atomic bomb with plutonium or highly enriched uranium, or whether it is small enough to fit on a long-range missile that can hit the U.S.

   As Pyongyang warned of additional measures against "hostility" by Washington and its allies after its announcement of an atomic test, South Korea and the U.S. forces are paying keen attention to whether it will launch further missiles and artillery, according to officials.

   Military officials express concern over the use of movable missile launchers that shoot short-range missiles, which are hard to detect by satellites.

   The military are paying keen attention to the 16-wheel missile Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) that was first seen in a military parade in Pyongyang in April of last year, which can carry short to mid-range missiles capable of hitting South Korea as well as U.S. bases in Japan and Guam.


Latest South Korean Pop Culture Penetrates North Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The latest South Korean pop culture, including the international hit song "Gangnam Style", has deeply permeated North Korea despite widely held beliefs that the country is completely isolated from outside influence, a South Korean human rights group said on Feb. 13.

   A video clip by Caleb's Mission, a Christian group dedicated to improving human rights conditions in the North, showed two North Koreans moving their shoulders up and down in amusement in front of a television set playing rapper Psy's "Gangnam Style" music video, which became a worldwide sensation in late 2012.

   The video file, which the group said was recorded in a North Korean city bordering China, also featured another North Korean household with a DVD player showing the latest K-pop songs as well as a South Korean drama.

   A woman's voice heard over the tune of Gangnam style hurriedly made a warning during the song that authorities may be coming to crack down, said the group during a news conference.

   North Koreans have a thirst for South Korean pop culture, with the latest TV dramas from their Southern neighbors arising as everyday topics in conversation among citizens, Rev. Kim Sung-eun of Caleb's Mission said.

   Northern cities bordering China are always the first to receive goods, often smuggled or secretly donated from the outside, with most of residents in North Korea's northern port city of Chongjin having knowledge about South Korea's pop culture, Kim said.

   "And we think North Korea authorities are aware of it," Kim said referring to the widespread cultural influence from the South.

   North Koreans that the mission group has met or helped to escape the communist country said North Koreans living in areas far below the border also know about South Korean pop and drama, the reverend said.

   His mission and other nongovernmental organizations are leading the movement to promote outside influence into the North by sending music CDs and other goods through the border, he said.

   Despite recent reports on tightened border security under the new Kim Jong-un regime, North Koreans still have some leeway to move in and out of the border with China, Kim also said.