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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 251 (February 28, 2013)

63 Percent of S. Koreans Unsettled by N. Korean Nuke Test: Survey

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Some six out of 10 South Koreans feel disturbed by North Korea's latest provocation of conducting an underground nuclear test, a survey showed on Feb. 21.

   According to the telephone survey of 1,000 South Koreans aged 19 and older, 63.2 percent said they were unsettled by the North's nuclear test, and 72 percent expressed anxiety over the country's provocative threats following its Feb. 12 nuclear detonation.

   North Korea defiantly carried out its third nuclear test by detonating what it called a miniaturized atomic device in defiance of repeated international warnings, drawing a chorus of worldwide condemnations and prompting the international community to begin devising sterner punishments for the country. The North also conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

   The impoverished socialist nation has also vowed to conduct additional nuclear tests and can acquire intercontinental ballistic missiles "to counter hostile forces and bolster its self-defense capabilities."

   Asked about major sources of social stress, the largest number of respondents, or 39.9 percent, pointed to the North's nuclear test, followed by violent crimes with 34 percent and serious illness, including cancer, with 12.8 percent, according to the survey.

   Of 35.7 percent of the respondents who said Pyongyang's atomic test does not bother them, 34.6 percent cited the North's intention to use its nuclear pursuit as a bargaining chip in talks with the U.S. as the reason, and 32.1 percent mentioned the slim possibility of Pyongyang following through with a nuclear attack on South Korea, the survey showed.

   The survey, conducted for three days from Saturday by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a private South Korean think tank, has a confidence level of 95 percent and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.


N. Korea Rejects S. Korean Parliamentary Resolution Condemning Nuke Test

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Feb. 22 refused to accept South Korea's hand-delivered parliamentary resolution condemning its latest nuclear test.

   The Ministry of Unification in Seoul said it tried for two days in a row to deliver the resolution through the liaison office at the truce village of Panmunjom, but it was turned down by the representative from the North.

   The resolution was passed by the National Assembly on Feb. 14, two days after the North detonated a nuclear device in defiance of warnings from the international community.

   "The North Korean official consistently made clear he was not told by superiors about (accepting) the document," a ministry official said. He added that the same response was given on Feb. 21 when Seoul first tried to hand over the official document.

   The ministry in charge of carrying out dialogue with the North said that since the communist country did not want to accept the resolution, it decided to give up the delivery attempts and informed parliament of the situation.

   The resolution was signed by National Assembly speaker Kang Chang-hee and addressed to his counterpart Choe Thae-bok, the chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly. Besides condemning the detonation, the resolution called on Pyongyang to abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and rules set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

   The North, meanwhile, had rejected another parliamentary resolution on Dec. 10 urging the country not to launch a long-range rocket. That resolution was passed two days before the actual launch took place.


S. Korea Seeks U.N. Inquiry Commission on Rights Abuses in N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea will "actively" persuade member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution to establish its first commission of inquiry into widespread human rights violations in North Korea, a senior Seoul diplomat said on Feb. 25.

   The resolution is one of several that have been the subject of debate during the ongoing 22nd session of the U.N. council, which will last until March 22, the diplomat said on the condition of anonymity.

   Ahead of the U.N. council's session in Geneva, the European Union and Japan agreed last week to ask the council to form an independent "inquiry mechanism" on human rights abuses in North Korea, two Seoul government sources told Yonhap News Agency earlier in the day.

   "Starting next week, executive board members of the U.N. Human Rights Council will begin consultations about the draft resolution and we will actively take part in it," the diplomat said.

   If approved and the inquiry commission is established, it will allow the commission to conduct a "wide-ranging investigation" into human rights violations in North Korea, the diplomat said.

   Kim Bong-hyun, South Korea's deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, is set to leave for Geneva to attend the session of the U.N. council, according to the diplomat.

   A source told Yonhap earlier in the day, "The European Union is exchanging views with other U.N. member states on the formation and missions with regard to the proposed inquiry mechanism on human rights in North Korea."

   The inquiry mechanism resolution would be adopted if half of the 47-member council approves it, and another Seoul government source said prospects for a passage are high. South Korea is one of the council members.

   "The possibility of passage is very high because a draft resolution for the inquiry mechanism is being written by the European Union with its passage in mind amid the international community's growing concerns over human rights issues in North Korea," the second source said.

   Human rights advocacy groups have long called for international efforts to stop genocide and crimes against humanity which they claim are being systematically carried out by North Korean authorities.

   Activists said North Korea was holding thousands of political prisoners in at least six facilities where they face extrajudicial executions, torture and forced labor.

   The socialist country has been accused of human rights abuses for decades, ranging from holding hundreds of thousands of political prisoners to torture and public executions. Pyongyang has flatly denied the accusations, calling them a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

   The U.N. council's move comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are heightened after the North's Feb. 12 nuclear test.

   South Korea, the U.S. and others are pushing for more sanctions against North Korea, while Pyongyang has threatened to take unspecified retaliatory steps against such sanctions.