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All Headlines 11:03 May 15, 2008

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea Marks World Red Cross Day

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea, which has long been a beneficiary of international humanitarian aid following natural disasters such as floods and famine, marked the 61st World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day on May 8 with various events in Pyongyang and local areas.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Min Pyong-gwan, secretary general of the Central Committee of the DPRK (North Korea) Red Cross Society (RCS), as saying that various colorful activities are being held in Pyongyang and local areas this year so all people may join the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

The provincial, city and county branches of the RCS had varied events including an information gathering, the KCNA said, adding the mass media informed people of such common knowledge as the history and aim of the Red Cross movement.

A briefing on activities of the Red Cross Society will be held in Pyongyang with the participation of representatives of international organizations in the DPRK and of China, Russia and other donor nations, the KCNA said.

The Red Cross movement has not only provided emergency aid to the North but also facilitated inter-Korean talks and reunions of separated families of the two Koreas.


North Korea Calls for Increased Grain Production Amid Food Shortage

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea called on May 10 for nationwide efforts to increase grain production amid reports that the impoverished country is suffering from a dire shortage of staple foods.

The Rodong Shinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party (WPK), said the most pressing and important issue facing the country is addressing food shortages by drastically increasing grain production.

"The most imperative and important issue now is making a decisive increase in grain production so to smoothly solve the nation's food problem by ourselves," the newspaper said in a lengthy editorial carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

All citizens should join the national campaign since addressing the food shortage without outside help is one of the important tasks for preserving and strengthening the country's socialist system, the daily said.

The report followed warnings by international and local aid groups that North Korea faces its worst food shortages in years because of soaring international grain prices and reduced foreign handouts.

One day earlier, Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group, said famine has started to cause deaths in rural North Korean villages and about 200,000 to 300,000 people might die of starvation in two months if there is no emergency aid from the international community.

The group earlier said a daily average of one to two North Korean residents died of hunger in recent days.

It quoted an unidentified senior official of the WPK as saying that the North's food situation is as bad as one in the late 1990s when millions of people were believed to have died of starvation.

North Korea has since depended on foreign handouts to feed its 23 million people. Massive deaths from famine are only "a question of time," the official was quoted as saying.


North Korean Leader Stresses Importance of Military Training

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il called for all-out efforts to train his country's service members while visiting the command of a (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) unit, the North's official news agency said on May 11.

Kim underscored the need to concentrate all efforts on military training, saying the duty of "soldiers is to conduct training effectively before anything else," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The report did not reveal when Kim's visit was made, but it was his sixth visit to a military unit this month. The North Korean leader's whereabouts are usually kept confidential even after he returns from visits to military units or even foreign nations

During his latest visit to the military unit, Kim praised the KPA for its achievements under his military-first policy, called "Songun" in Korean, according to the KCNA report.

"No force in the world can match the strength of this great invincible army firmly armed with the spirit of devotedly defending their leader," he was quoted as saying.

The two Koreas technically remain at war as the 1950-53 Korean War ended only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.


Annual Spring International Trade Fair Opened in Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea, which has increasingly engaged in trade with foreign countries to acquire much-needed foreign currency, held its largest-ever international trade fair in mid-May.

The 11th Pyongyang Spring International Trade Fair opened at the Three-Revolution Exhibition, with products presented by companies, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on May 12

On May 9, the Choson Sinbo, the organ of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, said more than 180 companies from 18 countries, the largest-ever number participants, attended the annual exhibition, compared with about 130 companies from 16 countries last year.

The participating companies came from China, Russia, the Netherlands, Germany, Syria, Switzerland, Britain, Australia, Italy, Indonesia, Spain, Vietnam, France, Finland, Poland and Taiwan.

Most of the companies were Chinese, with mainland China accounting for about 120 companies and Taiwan for about 30.

The items on display were machine tools, electronic appliances, petrochemicals, vehicles, medicine, daily necessities, foodstuffs and other products.

The opening ceremony, held on May 12, was attended by Vice Premier Ro Tu-chol, Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong-nam, and Kim Jong-sik, the vice chairman of the Pyongyang City People's Committee, according to the KCNA.


N. Korea on Alert over Further Bird Flu Outbreaks in S. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is intensifying efforts to prevent the spread of bird flu from South Korea by placing quarantine officials on high alert against possible outbreaks of the deadly disease, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper reported on May 12.

The Choson Sinbo, organ of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, quoted a North Korean government veterinarian, Tak Song-chun, as saying that all state quarantine agencies have been vigilant since early April, when South Korea reported a bird flu outbreak in southwestern area.

At first, the disease appeared to be confined to a few chicken farms in the southwest, but it quickly spread across the nation despite intensified quarantine efforts.

One day earlier, South Korea reported a fresh case of bird flu in Seoul, the second outbreak in less than a week in the capital. Officials earlier said they completed culling tens of thousands of poultry being raised outdoors in the city as a precautionary measure to stem the disease.

North Korea was hit by bird flu in 2005, when it slaughtered more than 200,000 head of poultry, media reports showed. Since then, no new cases have been confirmed, according to the Choson Sinbo.

Meanwhile, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said on May 9 the DPRK (North Korea) has taken measures to prevent avian influenza from spreading to and breaking out in the country.


Kim Jong-il Gives On-site Guidance in Remote Province

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il gave on-site guidance in a remote province in the far northeast of the country for three days in mid-May, according to the North's news outlets.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 13 said Kim familiarized himself with the overall work of North Hamgyong Province during his visit, which centered on economic facilities.

Kim Jong-il "expressed great satisfaction over the fact that it has done a lot of work in less than one year since his on-site guidance given in August last year," the KCNA said.

The news agency also added he was accompanied by Hong Sok-hyong, chief secretary of the North Hamgyong Provincial Committee of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), and Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the WPK Central Committee.

The KCNA said Kim visited the Kilju Farm, the Kimchaek Taehung Fishery Enterprise, and a historic relic that day.

The KCNA on May 12 said Kim provided field guidance to the Kyongsong Ceramic Factory and the Onpho Rest Home in the same province.

Earlier, in a separate article, the KCNA also said that Kim Jong-il gave field guidance to the Chongjin Goat Farm and the Chongjin Plastic Tube Factory.

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