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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 250 (February 21, 2013)

National Assembly Adopts Resolution Condemning N.K. Nuclear Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's National Assembly on Feb. 14 adopted a resolution condemning North Korea's nuclear test, calling it a serious threat to the lives and safety of the South Korean people.

   "We cannot tolerate North Korea's nuclear test and strongly condemn it as a serious provocation threatening the lives and safety of the South Korean people," the resolution said.

   "Responsibility for all issues arising from (the nuclear test) lies with North Korea."

   The resolution was adopted two days after the North conducted its third nuclear test in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, drawing strong condemnations from the international community.

   The statement urged the socialist nation to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and return to the international nuclear non-proliferation framework.

   The resolution was adopted after it was put to a vote at a full National Assembly session attended by 185 of the Assembly's 300 lawmakers. The motion passed with approval from 183 lawmakers and two abstentions.


Religious Groups Seeking to Hold Joint Inter-Korean Events

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Religious groups from South and North Korean are seeking to hold a joint ceremony to mark the national Independence Movement Day, but Seoul is reluctant to give approval as international tensions grow over the socialist country's Feb. 12 nuclear test.

   The Dangun National Peace and Unification Council, an association of civic and religious groups related to the Dangun founding myth of ancient Korea, on Feb. 15 said they are taking steps to hold a joint event to celebrate the 94th anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement.

   The national holiday marks the nationwide uprising in 1919 to secure independence from Japan's brutal colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula, which ran from 1910 to 1945.

   The council said they received a positive response from their counterpart in the North concerning holding the event in either the North Korean border city of Kaesong or at the Mt. Kumgang resort.

   The council said they are "in discussion with the Ministry of Unification," which is the government body that grants approval for citizens to have contact with the North. The council said that holding the event could provide new momentum for inter-Korean relations for the incoming Park Geun-hye administration.

   Their counterpart in the North proposed to hold working-level talks in February for the event pending approval from Seoul, according to the local civic group.

   The ministry handling inter-Korean affairs, however, remains reluctant to approve the event in the aftermath of the North's nuclear test, which drew international condemnation.

   Seoul has said it considers the nuclear test a serious development towards the isolationist country developing full-fledged nuclear weapons capabilities. The North claimed that it has successfully "miniaturized" the nuclear device, with South Korean experts estimating the explosion was 6-7 kilotons in strength. This is a larger yield than the North Korean devices tested in 2006 and 2009.

   The ministry, meanwhile, is holding off on making its decision, with one ministry official saying it is not easy to approve the joint event under the current administration whose term in office ends on Feb. 24.

   Another government source said that the ministry has not received an official request of approval from the South Korean group. The group is only seeking government opinion and the government has the stance that the decision should be made in context of the heightened tensions by North Korea's nuclear test, the official said, hinting that Seoul may not give consent.


President Lee Says N. Korea's Weapons Development to Undermine Regime

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak warned on Feb. 15 that North Korea will undermine its own regime if it continues to build weapons with its scarce resources.

   The warning comes as South Korea scrambles to deal with North Korea's third nuclear test, which the socialist country carried out on Feb. 12 in defiance of international demands to drop the plan.

   "If North Korea continues to waste its budget on developing military weapons, it will become difficult to maintain its regime," Lee was quoted as saying by presidential spokeswoman Lee Mi-yon.

   The president held a breakfast meeting at the presidential office with a group of foreign policy and security advisers, including former senior government officials and academics.

   During the meeting, participants expressed the view that U.N. sanctions alone will not solve the North's nuclear issue, saying change from within the communist regime and reunification with the South are fundamental solutions to the problem, according to the spokeswoman.


Defectors Launch Anti-N. Korea Leaflets, Clash with Activists

PAJU, South Korea (Yonhap) -- A group of North Korean defectors on Feb. 16 in the city of Paju sent leaflets across the border via balloon with anti-Pyongyang messages, leading to a clash with progressive civic activists opposed to their actions.

   At 11 a.m., about 50 North Korean defectors released 10 huge balloons carrying 200,000 leaflets, 1,000 U.S. $1 bills and 500 pamphlets detailing the development of South Korea from Imjingak pavilion near the border.

   Defectors said their action, which took place on the birthday of the late North Korean Kim Jong-il, was in response to North Korea's recent nuclear test.

   "Despite strong opposition and condemnation by the international community, North Korea went ahead with the nuclear test, which runs counter to the peace of mankind," said Park Sang-hak, the head of the Fighters for Free North Korea (FFNK), a civic group of activists and North Korean defectors. "We wanted to let 20 million North Koreans know more about their country's nuclear ambitions and its hypocrisy."

   About 30 minutes before the launch, a progressive civic group called the Solidarity for Peace and Reunification of Korea held a press conference and urged the defectors not to release the balloons.

   In a press statement, the progressive group said, "Sending leaflets at a time of heightened tension following the North Korean nuclear test could only drive the Korean Peninsula into a state of war."

   FFNK members voiced their disapproval, and it led to shouting matches that went on for about 10 minutes. Police forces prevented the situation from escalating further.

   Last October, North Korea warned of a military strike if leaflets are sent across the border, forcing South Korean authorities to previously stop defectors from trying to fly balloons with anti-North Korean messages.