*** NEWS IN BRIEF
N. Korea Says It Will Prioritize Economy, Welfare After Purge
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will prioritize building its economy and improving the lives of the people following the shocking execution of leader Kim Jong-un's uncle earlier December, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan said on Dec. 20.
The path to be taken by North Korea following the purge of Jang Song-thaek is clear, said Choson Sinbo, a paper run by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.
"It's a path toward self-reliance, songun and socialism," it said. Songun refers to the North's military-first ideology.
"Building the economy and improving the lives of the people are tasks to be undertaken immediately, and we will do so at once," the paper said, adding that, "Economic prosperity of a nation possessing nuclear weapons will scare our enemies."
The paper, however, condemned foreign analysts claiming that Jang was executed to consolidate leader Kim Jong-un's rule.
"(North Korea) has publicly said building a monolithic leadership in the Party is precisely the basis of its existence," the paper said. "Labeling Jang as a 'reformist,' 'the No. 2' or Kim's 'regent,' therefore, shows ignorance of North Korean reality."
"If North Koreans were shocked by this incident, it's not because of the purge but because of the fact that there was someone scheming to overthrow our monolithic regime," it added.
Choson Sinbo has previously said the purge would strengthen the North's single leadership, and has dismissed reports that the execution of Jang would destabilize the regime and harm its foreign relations.
N. Koreans Swear Loyalty to Leader Following Bloody Purge
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- In a continuing procession of loyalty pledges, more North Korean officials and ordinary people have sworn loyalty to their leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang's state-run radio reported on Dec. 20, in what could be the North's latest attempt to drum up support for the young leader following the bloody purge of his uncle.
The North Koreans said they will faithfully "follow the ideology and leadership of the Marshall of Mt. Paektu bloodline" in a series of allegiance letters addressed to the leader, according to the radio broadcast monitored in Seoul.
Kim was named Marshal of North Korea in 2012 as he has been consolidating his grip on power that he assumed in December 2011 when his father, long-time leader Kim Jong-il, died suddenly of a heart attack.
North Korea has mobilized its propaganda media to rally support for Kim, noting he carried the country's royal bloodline, called the Mt. Paektu bloodline.
The North claims the mountain, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula and located on the Sino-North Korean border, is the sacred birthplace of Kim Jong-il, though historians and foreign officials have said he was born in Russia.
On Dec. 16, tens of thousands of North Korean troops also pledged the military's loyalty to Kim.
The North's recent moves are seen as being aimed at strengthening Kim's monolithic leadership following the execution of Kim's once-powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek accused of treason.
N. Korean Media Laud Leader's Grandmother ahead of Birthday
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media praised the late grandmother of leader Kim Jong-un on Dec. 23 in what could be the country's latest attempt to strengthen Kim's leadership following the bloody purge of his uncle.
The North's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, urged North Koreans to follow in the footstep of Kim Jong-suk for her devotion to safeguard her husband, the North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.
The latest praise came a day before the birthday of the grandmother, who is known in North Korea as an anti-Japanese guerrilla and "a peerless heroine."
The newspaper also stressed the importance of carrying the country's royal bloodline, called the Mt. Paektu bloodline.
Kim Jong-suk gave birth to Kim Jong-il, the late father of the current leader, in the former Soviet Union, according to historians and foreign officials.
Even though, North Korea has claimed that Kim Jong-il was born in Mt. Paektu, adding that the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula is one of the most sacred sites in the communist country.
The junior Kim took over North Korea in 2011 following the sudden death of Kim Jong-il, who also inherited the power from his father Kim Il-sung, the North's founder.
North Korean state media has frequently called for the monolithic leadership of Kim, saying that the Mt. Paektu bloodline is and should be the North's eternal bloodline, referring to the Kim family.
The latest propaganda campaign came days after the North executed Jang Song-thaek, current leader Kim Jong-un's once-powerful uncle, for treason.
North Korea Praises Own Sports, Culture Performance in 2013
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has highlighted its performance in sports, literature and arts this year in an apparent bid to rouse loyalty among citizens to leader Kim Jong-un.
"Our passion to build a civilized socialist society has never been stronger," said Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, on Dec. 23, adding that the nation has made "unprecedented" achievements in sports, literature and arts in 2013.
North Korea competed in more than 70 global sports events and gathered over 160 gold medals this year, a 3.7-fold increase from last year, the paper said.
The country earned a total of 380 medals, up 3.2 times from 2012, it added.
The paper also praised successful athletes, including Kim Kum-ok, who finished first at the 14th Asian Marathon Championship, as the "archetypal athletes of the new generation."
As with sports, the paper gave generous reviews regarding the country's performance in entertainment -- most remarkably claiming that North Korean literature and arts have successfully served their purpose as "ideological weapons."
The Moranbong Band, an all-female group formed by leader Kim Jong-un, has staged numerous performances representing the North's revolutionary spirit since its New Years concert, the paper said.
It also mentioned a play glorifying the mother of former leader Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-suk, as a milestone in performing arts. In addition, it noted the colored statues of founder Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum and the Munsu Water Park, respectively, as great achievements in fine arts.
N. Korean Leader Pays Homage to Late Father on Key Anniversary
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other top officials visited one of the country's most sacred sites on Dec. 24 to pay their respects to the two late leaders, the North's media reported.
North Koreans mark key anniversaries by visiting the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang, home to the embalmed bodies of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, who are the grandfather and father of the current leader.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim paid homage to the two late leaders "in the humblest reverence" as North Korea commemorated the 22nd anniversary of Kim Jong-il's assumption of the supreme commander of the military.
On Dec. 17, Kim also paid tribute to his late father in the mausoleum to mark the second anniversary of his death.
Kim Jong-un took over North Korea in 2011 following the sudden death of Kim Jong-il, who also inherited power from his father, Kim Il-sung, the North's founder.
Kim's latest visit came less than two weeks after the North executed his once-powerful uncle, Jang Song-thaek, who had long been considered the North's No. 2 man and Kim's regent, for treason.
Meanwhile, Kim Kyong-hui -- Kim's aunt and husband of Jang -- did not visit the mausoleum for the second time in a week. The North's state media did not provide any details on her conspicuous absence.
The National Intelligence Service, South Korea's top spy agency, reported to the parliament on Monday that Kim Kyong-hui is believed to be safe, though she refrained from public activity.
Kim Kyong-hui's fate had been in question after she failed to attend a national memorial service last week for her elder brother, late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
North Korean Leader Orders Military to Bolster Readiness
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited an Army unit and urged the military to maintain high combat readiness, its state media reported Wednesday, amid heightened tension on the peninsula following the shocking execution of the leader's uncle.
Kim visited the Command of Large Combined Unit 526 near the western port city of Nampho on Christmas Eve, the day when his late father Kim Jong-il was appointed as supreme commander of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA), the KCNA said.
"He instructed the unit to put utmost spurs on rounding off its combat readiness with the firm viewpoint...,always bearing in mind that a war breaks out without any prior notice," the KCNA said in an English dispatch.
The young leader was accompanied by senior officials and military leaders, including Choe Ryong-hae, director of the military's General Political Bureau, and Ri Yong-gil, chief of the general staff of the army, the report said.
Choe has been considered the socialist state's new No. 2 man following the recent execution of the current leader's uncle, Jang Song-thaek.
His military inspection coincided with South Korean President Park Geun-hye's first visit to a frontline unit since she came into office in February.
Park ordered service members to deal "sternly and mercilessly" with North Korean provocations to address rising security concerns.
Seoul and Washington have recently stepped up their surveillance on North Korea, as it could resort to provocative moves in an attempt to escalate tensions and divert domestic attention away from the shocking execution of the high-profile politician.
N. Korea Asks S. Korea to Choose between Trust, Confrontation
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Park Geun-hye government should choose between trust and confrontation with North Korea, Pyongyang's inter-Korean affairs body said on Dec. 25, urging Seoul to make the right choice.
"Park Geun-hye pledged to take one step after another to build confidence between the South and the North while talking about confidence building ... but Park went the lengths of slandering the policy of the DPRK (North Korea)," the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of (North) Korea said in a questionnaire addressed to the Park administration, which was carried by the North's official KCNA.
"Confidence or confrontation?" asked one of the seven questions raised by the North.
Other questions include "How does the present regime's North policy differ from the Lee Myung-bak regime's confrontation policy?" and "Who should make a right option?"
The committee also said the Park government is not only continuing former President Lee's hard-line North Korea policy but that it seeks even more fierce confrontation with the North.
"The reality shows that it is none other than Park Geun-hye herself who should make a right option," it noted in the English-language dispatch.
Responding to the questionnaire, Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eyi-do said he did not feel the need to react to the rude remarks one by one.
Still, the South Korean government will release its stance to the public on Dec. 26, said the spokesman at the ministry in charge of inter-Korean matters.
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