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North Korea: Amnesty announced for political prisoners

TOKYO — The amnesty, the first in more than six years, will begin on Feb. 1, the state-run Korean Central New Agency said.

North Korea to release prisoners for dead leaders' birthdays

Pyongyang's KCNA news agency said the amnesty was a fitting tribute to the "noble, benevolent and all-embracing politics" of late leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.

North Korean nuclear blast rumors

TOKYO — It isn't the first time that tenuous reports about the North's new regime have caused jitters elsewhere.

North Korea bulks up its military: report

North Korea doesn't just do a nice line in belligerent rhetoric; it also has the military hardware to make life difficult for its enemy South Korea, according to a new report.

North Korea calls South Korea's President Lee Myung Bak "chieftain of evils"

Lee's crime? This time it was putting the South's military on high alert after Kim Jong Il's death.
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South Korean President Lee Myung Bak makes a televised New Year speech in Seoul on Jan. 2, 2012. Lee said the door for better cross-border ties is left open this year as North Korea's new leader takes over while vowing to respond strongly to any provocations. (Dong-a Ilbo/AFP/Getty Images)

Kim Jong Un, or at least those pulling the strings in North Korea, has come out of the gate swinging.

His regime has called South Korea’s President Lee Myung Bak a “pro-US fascist maniac” and a “chieftain of evils” because he placed his troops on high alert after leader Kim Jong Il’s death.

The Associated Press reports Wednesday that the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said the North Korean army would force South Korea to pay a price for the action.

The statement, which was run by North Korean state media, also blasted Lee for barring official delegations from attending Kim Jong Il's funeral in late December.

On Jan. 2, Lee, who has classically taken the hardline on North Korea, and ended no-strings-attached aid in 2008, gave a speech that tried to play to both sides, saying the door was open for better cross-border relations, but he wouldn't hesitate to respond strongly to provocation.

So, what to make of it? Is this the same old dance?

Bradley K. Martin, author of "Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty," said, basically, he thinks so.

It's the "same old bluster" at a time of uncertainty and transition following the death of Kim Jong Il. He wrote by email:

[North Korea] tends to intensify the same old bluster against external enemies at times like this when they need to rally the masses at home for some domestic purpose.

More from Bradley Martin on GlobalPost: Why the North Koreans weep

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North Korea calls for "human shields" to defend Kim Jong Un

A New Year's message calls on "the whole Party, the entire army and all the people" to "possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong Un unto death."

North Korea holds funeral for Kim Jong Il (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

State television footage showed crowds of mourners lining the wintry streets as a black hearse carrying Kim's coffin, escorted by his son and heir Kim Jong Un, was taken to the national palace.

Even the magpies mourn Kim Jong Il (VIDEO)

According to North Korea state TV, grieving isn't confined to humans.

Flocks of magpies took to the trees to "mourn" Kim Jong Il in the only way they knew how: remaining motionless for a spell and then flying off again.

North Korean state TV showed footage (below) of dozens of magpies perched in trees near a memorial for Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il's father, in Unsan county in eastern North Pyongan province, the Telegraph reports.

As one North Korean man testifies in the clip below, he has lived in the coal village for 50 years and never seen anything like it.

More from GlobalPost: In-depth series on what's next for North Korea

Another confirms: "It's not just a strange natural phenomenon. It means our Dear Leader was born a great man."

The clip explains that the magpies showed up on Dec. 18, a day after Kim Jong Il was reported to have died in a train from a heart attack. They apparently remained in the trees, visible by their white bellies, and then flew off again toward morning.

Kim Jong Il's body is currently on display before his funeral Dec. 28.

His third son and heir, Kim Jong Un, today met with delegations from South Korea who traveled to pay their respects. It was the young ruler's first face-to-face meeting with visitors from the outside world.

More from GlobalPost: Kim Jong Un meets delegations from South Korea

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Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law on the rise

Jang Song Taek was pictured in full military uniform, cementing his position in the new regime.

The quest for clues to piece together North Korea continues.

The latest is the TV appearance of Jang Song Taek, Kim Jong Il's brother-in-law, who was pictured Sunday while paying respects to Kim Jong Il's body, in full military uniform for the first time.

Usually, Jang had been pictured in a suit and tie.

More from GlobalPost: In-depth series on what's next for North Korea

The four stars on Jang's shoulders, circled below in a photo from Korean state media, confirms his military status as a four-star general and "suggests that he is serving as the regent overseeing Kim Jong Un's fledgling regime," according to Chosun Ibo.

In the photo below, Jang appears on the left, and Kim Jong Un in the center.

In the insert on the upper right, released last Tuesday, Jang wears a Mao suit like Kim Jong Un.

Jang Song-taek (left), the uncle of new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (center) with four-star insignia on his epaulettes, pays his respects to the body of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in a photo released Sunday by the North Korean Central TV. In the photo (insert) released last Tuesday, he wears a Mao suit like Kim Jong-un. /[North] Korean Central TV

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This fish made me sorely miss Kim Jong Il

According to state propaganda, the Dear Leader thought ahead to leave dead fish for his people to enjoy.
Dear kim jong il north korea 2011 10 04Enlarge
Kim Jong Il. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

Merry Christmas, from Kim Jong Il.

This footage from North Korean state media, circulating the web on Christmas Eve day, is pretty amazing. It shows people waiting in line to receive dead fish that has ostensibly been provided for them by the dearly departed Kim Jong Il.

They seem as happy to receive the fish, as they are sad that their Dear Leader isn't there to enjoy it with them.

More from GlobalPost: North Korea's funeral politics

"When I received these pollacks and herrings, I was sorely missing Kim Jong Il," one woman says through tears at the grocery store.

The footage is testament to the fact that even the death of its leadr won't derail North Korea's propaganda machine.

GlobalPost in-depth series: After Kim Jong Il

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