*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)
North Korea praises revolutionary soldier culture
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea praised revolutionary soldier culture, characterized by optimism and unity in supporting its leader, Kim Jong-il, and urged party members and people to enhance the achievements of the Songun (military-first) era.
The North's ruling Workers' party organ, the Rodong Sinmun, on Dec. 6 said that as required by the Songun era, people should learn from soldier culture to make revolutionary enthusiasm and militant spirit, optimism and the emotion of the People's Army prevail throughout the country.
It also called for all people to become genuine creators and enjoyers of socialist culture in the Songun era, citing the recent 31st art festival by soldiers, which Kim Jong-il also enjoyed.
The newspaper said that soldier culture reflects the spirit of the present times, joy, rich emotion, militant enthusiasm, and optimism and fixed faith in victory in the revolution.
The Rodong Sinmun also said that party officials should be the role models of the people, following the attitude of soldiers by defending the leader, Kim, by risking death and carrying out the party's orders to the end.
Two days later, the newspaper stressed again that soldier culture is the new cultural example of socialism.
North Korean media confirms promotion of Jang Song-thaek to senior post
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Jang Song-thaek, who is North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's aide and his younger sister's husband, was promoted to the party's directorship, according to the North's news outlet on Dec. 6.
The promotion was confirmed when the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described Jang as the party's director in a report on personnel accompanying Kim Jong-il to an on-site inspection of a farm operated by an army unit.
However, the news agency failed to provide details on Jang's new role.
The post, which was re-established last month by Kim Jong-il, oversees the communist state's internal security organs, including the prosecution, police and the judiciary, according to sources privy to the matter.
On Oct. 4, the KCNA identified Jang as first-vice director in a report on personnel participating in a luncheon party for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.
In mid-November, citing sources in Seoul, the South' news media reported that Jang made a comeback as the country's chief internal security supervisor.
Jang Song-thaek, who disappeared from the North's political landscape in early 2004 following his criticism of the country's economic policy, returned as first-vice director of the administrative department of the ruling Workers' Party in early 2006.
The 61-year-old technocrat married Kim Jong-il's younger sister, Kyong-hui, in 1972, and wielded considerable clout until he was reportedly purged three years ago by Kim, who was said to have felt threatened by sympathy for Jang among a large group of officials.
New head of Kimilsung Socialist Youth League elected
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The Kimilsung Socialist Youth League, an organization under the control of the North's ruling Workers' Party, held its plenary meeting and elected a new head, according to the North's news outlets on Dec. 8.
The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Central Committee of the Kimilsung Socialist Youth League elected Ri Yong-chol as its first secretary at its 36th plenary meeting held in Pyongyang on Dec. 7.
The KCNA failed to give further details on former head Kim Kyong-ho, simply saying he was relieved of his post.
According to sources familiar with the matter, Kim was dismissed from the job in August, allegedly due to receiving bribes and having an extravagant party at a hotel in Pyongyang before being driven out to become a worker in a mine in South Hamgyong Province.
North Korea's news media also did not provide the details on new head of the league.
The league was founded in 1946, and encompasses all youth from 14-30 years old in the communist country. Along with the party and army, the league is one of the three pillar organizations in the reclusive socialist country. New Year joint editorials are printed by the trio organs of those organizations every year.
The league has about five million members, including workers, students and soldiers, who are sometimes mobilized for "youth charging brigades" at construction sites.
North Korea pushes financial development for boosting the economy
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is pushing financial development in line with international relations as one of its major policies for boosting its sluggish economy, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan said on Dec. 11.
The Choson Sinbo, the organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, quoted an official of the North's trade bank as saying its economic development is both accompanied and driven by the development of the financial institution.
The North's trade bank, officially named the Foreign Trade Bank of (North) Korea, is in charge of the international settlements of the reclusive communist country.
The bank is positively making such efforts as the international situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula is becoming favorable for the country's external trade, the newspaper said, alluding to progress in the six-party talks led by the United States in dealing with Pyongyang's nuclear program.
The organ recalled that the North and the U.S. held financial talks in New York in November to normalize the North's financial activities on an international level.
The unidentified official was also quoted as saying that some countries have not yet normalized financial transactions with the North, which is hoping to open bank accounts overseas to prove its transparency.
The newspaper also said the trade bank is moving to train capable bankers and financial officials who will be well-versed in the methods of the current international financial world, including risk management.
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