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All Headlines 10:42 May 08, 2008


North Korea Steps Up Criticism of South Korean Government

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The level of North Korea's criticism against the South Korean government has been continually intensifying and has moved from simple criticism and harsh rhetoric to an anti-Seoul government struggle.

Pyongyang's hardened stance and agitation against the new South Korean administration encompasses almost all issues, ranging from labor and farming to diplomacy and national security. Recently, the North's media began to lambaste the South Korean government's opening of its beef market to the U.S., with its media reporting the large-scale candlelight rally in Seoul against the import of the U.S. beef.

Inter-Korean relations have worsened since the North began to criticize the conservative South Korean government in late March. President Lee Myung-bak, who took office on Feb. 25, has vowed to take a tougher approach toward the North than his two liberal predecessors, and has openly criticized the North's human rights record. The North's media have called Lee a "traitor."

On May 4, North Korean media poured invective upon President Lee's late April trips to the U.S. and Japan, warning that his "sycophantic and treacherous" diplomacy will only heighten the chances of nuclear confrontation on the Korean Peninsula. The Minju Joson, the organ of the North Korean Cabinet, branded Lee's trips to the U.S. and Japan as "diplomacy aimed at draining resources" and trips that "offer tribute" under the signboard of "pragmatism."

"Lee's junkets to the U.S. and Japan were sycophantic and treacherous ones that sold off the dignity and interests of the nation lock, stock, and barrel, and deepened U.S. domination over South Korea ... The war trips were aimed at bringing nuclear disaster to the nation through intensified moves for confrontation with fellow countrymen," said the paper's commentary.

Pointing to the absence of a joint statement after Lee's Camp David summit with U.S. President George W. Bush on April 19, the paper went on to say, "It is by no means fortuitous that he failed to release neither a joint statement nor a joint communique on his visit, though he offered the U.S. everything required by it.

On May 3, North Korea's main newspaper continued to lash out at President Lee, despite official requests from Seoul explaining that such actions are counterproductive to bilateral relations. The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Korean Workers' Party, in its editorial labeled Lee's trip to the U.S. last month as a "tributary pilgrimage", according to the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). On May 2, the South Korean government officially called on the North to refrain from unleashing rhetoric against President Lee.

Referring to the South's agreement to import U.S. beef during the summit, the editorial of the North Korean paper said, "The South acted in a disgraceful manner, not showing a bit of self-respect or national pride … It is ridiculous to see that the South's officials blow their horns, calling their way of diplomacy successful and fruitful, when it was only humiliating," it said.

On May 2, North Korea criticized South Korea's decision to buy 21 F-15K fighter jets by 2012 as "reckless arms buildup," claiming that the South is building up a preemptive attack scenario, the KCNA said. On May 4, the North's Central Broadcasting Station called for stepping up the struggle against the new South Korean government's "anti-unification, pro-war and confrontational tactics."

The South Korean Defense Ministry said in late April that it decided to purchase the fighter jets, equipped with highly precise air-to-surface guided missiles, from Boeing for 2.3 trillion won (US$2.3 billion) within the next four years as an effort to modernize the country's weapons systems.

In the KCNA report, the Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland branded the deal as an "outright challenge to the desire and wishes ... for the peace and reunification of Korea."

Seoul also plans to purchase some 60 fifth-generation fighter jets with stealth capabilities starting from 2012. "The South Korean military warhawks' decision ... is an intolerable treacherous act of pushing the situation on the Korean Peninsula to a dangerous phase of war," the secretariat said. The report also underscored that North Korea "will strongly counter the U.S. and Lee Myung-bak group's provocative arms buildup and moves."

On May 7, the Rodong Sinmun carried a commentary branding President Lee's trip to Washington and Tokyo as "war-seeking trip." The newspaper said, "During the junkets, the traitor unveiled his bellicose intention to act a servant and a shock force in carrying out the outsiders' aggression policy for war in a bid to stifle fellow countrymen by force and realize his design to invade the DPRK."


More South Koreans Toured North Korea Despite Chill in Ties

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The number of South Korean tourists who visited North Korea's scenic Mt. Kumgang nearly doubled in the first four months of this year, industry sources said on May 4, despite strained inter-Korean relations following the launch of the conservative Lee Myung-bak government in February.

North Korea has reacted angrily to Lee's pledge to get tough on Pyongyang unless it abandons its nuclear weapons programs, threatening to turn South Korea into ashes, suspending all inter-Korean dialogue and expelling South Korean officials from the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town.

The industrial complex in Kaesong and the Mt. Kumgang tourism projects are among the conspicuous inter-Korean economic cooperation projects agreed upon at the unprecedented inter-Korean summit in 2000 between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

As many as 100,300 South Koreans toured Mt. Kumgang so far this year, up from 58,000 a year earlier, according to a spokesman for Hyundai Asan, Hyundai Group's arm dealing with business with North Korea.

Hyundai Asan officials expect more than 500,000 South Korean to visit the North's mountain resort this year alone, up from last year's 350,000.

A total of 40,090 South Koreans also visited the North's medieval capital city of Kaesong during the first four months this year, Hyundai officials said, adding they recently increased the daily quota for South Korean visitors to Kaesong to 500 from 300. The tours of Kaesong began last December.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and then President Roh Moo-agreed last October to launch another tour project for South Koreans at North Korea's Mt. Paektu, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, which has long been considered a sacred place and the birthplace of the Korean nation.

"The fact that so many South Korean tourists visited North Korea's Kaesong and Mt. Kumgang this year despite the chilled ties shows that the places are attractive in their own right as sightseeing places," a Hyundai Asan official said.

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