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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 266 (June 13, 2013)

2013/06/13 10:44

*** NEWS IN BRIEF

North Korean Broadcaster Starts Real-time Facebook Broadcasting

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state broadcaster started real-time Facebook broadcasting as the socialist country moves to expand its propaganda efforts into the social networking realm, official sources said on June 6.

Sources, who keep tabs on the North, said that the (North) Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station (KCBSTV) can be viewed on its new Facebook account (www.facebook.com/KoreanCentralTV). The account is the broadcaster's official international fan page with all materials posted in English.

The exact date of when the station started providing live services cannot be determined, but an image posted on the site showing the North's flag and Juche Tower has a date of Nov. 23, 2012.

The page, which can currently be viewed from South Korea, has numerous pieces of propaganda information highlighting the superiority of the North Korean regime as well as photos and video images of its leader Kim Jong-un.

As a rule, Seoul blocks South Koreans from viewing North Korean material via the Internet, and effectively limits access to written material out of concern Pyongyang will try to stir discord within the country.

Related to the social media post, the National Police Agency said it has formally asked the Korea Communication Standard Commission to block people from accessing the account from within the country. It said some material is in violation of the national security law.

"The site will be classified as being off limits because of materials that conflicts with national interest," a police officer said.

Meanwhile, North Korean analysts in Seoul said the latest move can be seen as an attempt by the North to distribute its propaganda material to a wider audience.

The same broadcaster had opened a French language account in May 2011, followed by the opening of a German language service in February and a Korean version late last month.

The country also operates Uriminzokkiri, its main Internet-based media and propaganda Web site that started Twitter and Facebook services in August 2010.

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N.K. Slams Move to Create New S. Korea-U.S. Combined Command Structure

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on June 6 claimed the move to create a new military command structure following the transfer of wartime operational control of South Korean forces in late 2015 constitutes a grave provocation.

Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), said in an article monitored in Seoul that the new military control mechanism is no different from the current combined forces command. The North has persistently claimed that the U.S. presence in the South and its alliance with South Korea is the source of all tensions and forced the communist country to acquire nuclear weapons for self-defense.

"The two countries had used the planned transfer of operational control of troops from Washington to Seoul as an excuse to build up their military might, but they have now made clear they will build another combined command," said the daily, which effectively reflects the views of the ruling party and the country's leadership.

The article said defense ministers of the two countries held talks in Singapore last Saturday and discussed such a measure.

"The move pours cold water on ongoing efforts to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula," the paper stressed.

However, it said that despite such provocations that aim to weaken the country, Pyongyang is committed to pushing for talks to resolve all outstanding issues, and called on both South Korea and the United States to halt anti-North activities.

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N. Korea's Ceremonial Head Visits Ski Resort under Construction

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong-nam has visited the construction site of a ski resort in the country and called for an early completion, state media said on June 9.

The visit to the ski resort under construction by North Korea near the Mt. Masik pass, or Masikryong, in country's Kangwon Province, was made on June 7, according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

It is very unusual for Kim, who mainly oversees external affairs, to make an inspection tour of a site related to domestic politics, a move showing Pyongyang's high interest in the ski resort.

Earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also visited on May 25 the site and issued a letter on May 29, ordering the military and citizens to complete the construction within this year

Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), echoed the leader's instruction during the latest visit, according to the KCNA.

"The Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK) remains unchanged in its resolution to build a world-class ski grounds within the year and provide the people, school youth and children with highly civilized and happy living conditions," Kim was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

Pyongyang's news reports say the ski resort will be the first to be opened to the general public in the country. The construction of the ski resort reportedly began at the instruction of the leader Kim Jong-un.

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North Korean Leader Inspects Food Factory in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a newly remodeled food factory in Pyongyang, the North's state media said on June 8.

According to the KCNA report monitored in Seoul, Kim "provided field guidance to the Pyongyang Essential Foodstuff Factory," without specifying the date of the visit.

"This factory is like a nice palace for the workers, the one meeting requirements of the era of the Workers' Party and the one pervaded with patriotism," the KCNA said in an English-dispatch, adding that foodstuff produced at the factory includes refined salt and chemical seasoning.

The young leader was accompanied on the visit by high-ranking military officials including Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the KCNA added.

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Kim Jong-un Visits New Soccer Academy in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited the newly-opened soccer academy in the capital city of Pyongyang, the state-run news agency reported on June 10, in a bid to foster global sports talent in the North.

The Pyongyang International Football School opened on May 30 as part of the North's effort to raise its stature in the global sports arena. The school plans to accept both domestic and international students and to hire foreign experts to teach the curriculum.

"We've got nothing to spare for our students who will go on to honor our country," Kim was quoted as saying by the KCNA.

During the visit to the academy, Kim Jong-un was accompanied by his powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek, chairman of the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission. Jang accompanied Kim for the first time in nearly a month to see the new facilities.

The school is located next to the Rungna People's Sports Park, a massive space that houses a soccer field, basketball courts, volleyball courts, and a roller-skating rink, according to the KCNA.

The two projects are in line with Kim's goals to make sports one of the North's strengths on the global stage.

Last November, North Korea launched the State Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, an agency chaired by Jang, to oversee all sports activities in the country.

Kim has stressed the crucial role of the commission in fostering global sports talent in North Korea.

"The commission should evoke our society's interest in sports, raise the level of sports technology to match that of the rest of the world, and support our next generation of soccer players with material supplies," Kim was quoted as saying.

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North Korea Set to Start Development Project in Mt. Kumgang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is set to start a massive construction project near the scenic Mt. Kumgang area as part of the country's plan to develop the area as a "world-famous" tourist site, according to a North Korean magazine on June 11.

"North Korea will build tourist objects step by step in the special Mt. Kumgang tour zone," Oh Chung-hyuk, president of a North Korean developer of the mount resort area, was quoted as saying by the June issue of the monthly North Korean Kumsugangsan magazine.

"Extensive development will be carried out in the entire special area in the near future and (the place) will be well prepared as an international tourist zone," the president said in an interview story in the publicity magazine obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

Foreign and South Korean companies as well as individual investors are entitled to invest in the development project, the president said, adding that the North will legally guarantee investors' rights, investment capital and income stemming from investing in the project.

The North has repeatedly publicized its plan to develop international tour programs in the scenic mountain area after the country's joint tour program with the South was suspended over the shooting death of a South Korean female tourist in 2008.

In 2011, the country enacted a law on the special zone for international tours of Mt. Kumgang, which nullified a 50-year monopoly on cross-border tours to the mountain area, held by Hyundai Asan, the South Korea investor and operator of the joint tour program.

The law "shall contribute to turning Mt. Kumgang into a world-famous special tourist zone by properly setting up a system and order in the development of the special area," according to the copy of the law.

The North has shown little progress in the country's plan to lure in foreign investors and is believed to be making efforts again for the development of the mountain resort area.

The Mt. Kumgang development plan is also part of the country's wider tourism project in which the country also designated the port city of Wonsan to be developed as an international tourist spot. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has recently vowed to finish the construction of a ski resort in the Masik mountain pass, or Masikryong, near the eastern coastal city of Wonsan within this year.

The report also came as South and North Korean officials are expected to discuss the long-debated topic of resuming the mountain tour program during their two-day government talks to be held from Wednesday to Thursday in Seoul.

North Korea may make efforts to revive the jointly-run tour program during the inter-Korean talks and it may be linked with the country's plan to develop international tourist attractions in the Mt. Kumgang area, said Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute.

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North Korea Sees Let-up in Bird Flu Outbreak

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has reported to the international agency on animal health that the country has seen no new bird flu cases since early May, agency officials said on June 11.

Ri Kyong-gun, the North's agricultural department chief, said, in a report sent to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), "There are no new outbreaks" as of May 22, some 10 days after a duck farm near Pyongyang reported animals showing symptoms of avian influenza, known as the H5N1 virus.

While the source of the outbreak and its origin are not yet known, the communist country "humanely culled all ducks in the infected cages and has vaccinated 500,000 heads nationwide," the official said in the report.

According to the comments there, weekly follow-up reports will be submitted, "as the event is continuing." The May 22 report is the latest one available on the OIE website.

The international agency earlier said the highly contagious virus was presumed to be spread by migrating birds from China, where its Tibet Autonomous Region saw 35 chickens die at a farm after showing symptoms of avian flu.

In a move to conduct an on-spot inspection into the recent cases and to help North Korea with quarantine activities, three experts from the OIE and the Food and Agriculture Organization made a one-week trip to the communist country from June 3, the Washington-based Voice of America said.

An outbreak of the avian flu led to a mass cull of 210,000 chickens in North Korea back in 2005.

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