NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 304 (March 13, 2014)


N. Korean, Hong Kong firms to develop border city of Sinuiju

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has joined hands with a Hong Kong-based company to develop the country's northwestern border city of Sinuiju into a special economic zone, a North Korean official said.

Sinuiju, which borders China's Dandong city, has drawn much attention from foreign investors for its geographical advantage as North Korea's western gateway to China, Ri Chol-sok, the vice chairman of North Korea's economic development committee, said in an interview in the March issue of Kumsugangsan magazine, a North Korean government mouthpiece.

"Now a joint development company has been established for the development of (Sinuiju) and is striving to win back lost opportunities," said the North Korean official.

Hong Kong-based conglomerate Great China International Investment Groups Ltd. reportedly signed the deal with North Korea.

North Korea is also making efforts to lure foreign investment to other special economic zones, including one in the Rason area in the northern tip of the country, according to Ri.

The foreign company already has deep ties with the North, having joined the country's project launched in January to renovate the eastern part of the capital Pyongyang.

The North had first designated Sinuiju as a special administrative city to experiment with introducing a market economy, only to see the plan go nowhere. Sinuiju is one of the 13 areas the North plans to develop into special economic zones, according to an announcement last November.

"The joint venture established with the Hong Kong company indicates North Korea's aggressiveness in developing Sinuiju," Cho Bong-hyun, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute, said.


N. Korea urges South to stick to 'no-slander' deal

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has denounced the South for failing to comply with a deal to stop slandering each other, claiming officials and media here alike are putting the deal's implementation at a "critical crossroads."

After holding two rounds of rare high-level talks last month, the two Koreas agreed to stop making insulting remarks against each other to improve their relations.

"However, they have gone the lengths of daring slander ... in gross violation of the agreement," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said, citing a statement issued on March 11 by an unidentified spokesman for its delegation for the inter-Korean high-level contact.

Pointing to Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae's recent remarks at a lecture that "even soup would not be offered" to the North if it fails to keep a promise, Pyongyang called for stopping "their reckless mudslinging as it is the root cause of all disasters."

The communist country also bashed the South for not taking actions to prevent North Korean defectors here from scattering anti-Pyongyang leaflets, saying Seoul is making "absurd excuses" of freedom of expression, rally and association.

The North also warned the South's "conservative media" of "releasing misinformation on the basis of sheer lies," pointing to their suspicions about the results of the North's recent legislative election where leader Kim Jong-un was elected with 100 percent support of voters.

"The situation prevailing at present less than a month since the high-level contact is so beyond imagination ... We will closely watch the attitude and moves of the south Korean authorities," the KCNA said.

Dismissing the North's demand as "an exhausting dispute," the Seoul government called on Pyongyang to take a "more constructive path" for better inter-Korean relations.

"I don't feel any necessity to respond to the North, which has made false claims. As stressed before, we comply with the inter-Korean agreement of not slandering North Korea," Unification Ministry spokeswoman Park Su-jin told reporters.

Reiterating that the government should not restrict the basic rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association, she called on the North to stop making such principles an inter-Korean political issue.


N.K. leader picks military show as first public outing since election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un watched a military performance as his first public outing since being elected to the legislature, the North's media said on March 11.

In the election for the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the North's rubber-stamp legislature, on Sunday, the young leader of the communist country won a seat in Mount Paektu Constituency No. 111.

Paektu is the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula that Pyongyang claims is the sacred birthplace of Kim's late father.

According to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the young leader "watched the performance given by the performance artists of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Units 567, 324, and 233."

The report did not elaborate on when and where the event took place, but it is presumed to have occurred on March 10.

The performers represented "the invincible might of the powerful revolutionary Paektusan army and unshakable faith and will" to protect its leader, the KCNA said.

Expressing his satisfaction with the performances, Kim stressed the importance of teaching service personnel the arts "as they have great influence, strong appeal and mobility" and set forth "important tasks" as guidelines, it added.

Kim was accompanied by Choe Ryong-hae, director of the KPA's General Political Bureau, and Jang Jong-nam, minister of the People's Armed Forces, as well as other key members of the party, according to the KCNA.

Kim's choice of the military performance as his first public outing since the election is seen as a continuation of his military-first policy and attempt to boost the morale of service members, experts say.

The March 9 election was the first of its kind under the young ruler who took power in December 2011 following the death of his father Kim Jong-il. The communist state holds the election every five years, with the last one held in March 2009.

Outside watchers have said Pyongyang is expected to use it as a chance to eliminate or sideline supporters of Jang Song-thaek, the young leader's once-powerful uncle who was executed in December for treason.


N. Korea claims missile launches 'defensive,' warns of attack against U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lambasted the United States on March 10 for criticizing its recent missile launches, warning of retaliatory attacks against Washington.

In early March, the communist country fired a series of short-range missiles into the East Sea and launched a barrage of long-range artillery shells in an apparent show of force against the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercises.

It immediately drew criticism from the international community, with Washington pointing out that the missile launches were in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and urging the North to stop provocations.

"Our public's rocket firing drills" were "part of self-defense actions," the North's main newspaper Rodong Sinmun said in its article, claiming, "It is the U.S. who has made grave provocations and threats.

"If the U.S. and its followers try to provoke against us on the excuse of our legitimate rocket launches, it will result in our strong retaliatory attacks," it said.

The communist North has claimed that the annual Seoul-Washington military exercises are a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it, calling for their cancellation.


N. Korea slams Kerry's remarks on MSNBC

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on March 8 lashed out at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his remarks on MSNBC in late February according to its state media.

"North Korea is one of the most closed and cruel places on earth," Kerry said on Feb. 26 in an interview with the U.S. television broadcaster, adding that "there's evil that is taking place there."

The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers' Party of Korea, said that "his remarks are too lowbrow to be considered as those of a person fancying himself as the top diplomat of a big country."

Comparing Kerry's remarks to those by former U.S. President George W. Bush, who labeled the North as belonging to the "Axis of Evil" along with Iran and Iraq, the North Korean newspaper argued the U.S. state secretary effectively reiterated Bush's claims that the U.S. should rule over other nations opposed to it using force.

It also denounced that the stronghold of evil is the U.S., which is invading and terrorizing other countries.


N. Korea's Kimilsung Univ. carves name in English on emblem

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's two major universities, Kimilsung University and Kimchaek University, were found to have inscribed their names in English on their emblems, pro-North Korean media in Japan reported March 8.

According to the Choson Sinbo, the North's most prestigious university, named after its founder Kim Il-sung, inscribed the school's name in English on its emblem, an uncommon practice in the reclusive socialist country.

The circular mark also includes illustrations of the university on a globe, as well as a modern electronic library.

Earlier on March 1, the newspaper said Kimchaek University's new emblem featured an image of an artificial satellite and the school's name in English.


Russian envoy on stalled nuclear talks in N. Korea: report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Russia's envoy on stalled nuclear talks is in Pyongyang, North Korean media said on March 7.

According to the Korean Central News Agency, Grigory Logvinov, Moscow's roving ambassador, arrived in the communist country.

The news wire service, however, did not elaborate on why he is in the country.

North Korean watchers in Seoul pointed out that Logvinov's visit comes just 10 days after senior official from Washington and Russia held talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programs, and speculated it may be an attempt get the stalled six-party negotiations rolling again.

The six-party forum, which began in August 2003 and aims to get North Korea to give up is nuclear program, has been suspended since the last session in late 2008. Besides the Two Koreas, the United States, China, Japan and Russia make up the group.

The roving ambassador, meanwhile, had visited Seoul last July to hold talks with his South Korean counterpart. That trip came five months after Pyongyang, in defiance of the global community, detonated its third nuclear device.

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