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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 15 (August 7, 2008)

All Headlines 11:03 August 07, 2008

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 2)

North Korea Urges Japan to Return 'Cultural Treasures'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged Japan on Aug. 2 to return "cultural relics" to the communist state, accusing their former colonial occupier of stripping the country of valuable Korean cultural treasures.

The North's main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, accused Japan of "the plunder and vandalism of historic relics and cultural treasures committed by foreign aggressor forces have been disclosed so far but that the Japanese imperialists perpetrated in this respect in Korea."

The North's accusation came as public anger heightened in South Korea over Japan's renewed territorial claim to the Dokdo islets located between the two countries. The rocky outcropping is currently under South Korean control.

"Japan looted cultural treasures of Korea in an undisguised manner after its occupation of Korea," the North's ruling Workers' Party newspaper said.

South Korea's ownership of Dokdo is verified by many old documents and maps but Japan claims sovereignty over the islets under a treaty it signed with Korea's last kingdom, Daehan, in 1905. Japan colonized the Korean peninsula five years later.

South Korea has declared the 1905 treaty null and void, arguing that its historical predecessor Daehan was forced to sign it at a time when Japan was expanding its imperialistic influence across the region. The Korean peninsular was liberated from Japan in 1945.


N. Korea Threatens to Eject S. Koreans from Inter-Korean Resort

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea threatened on Aug. 3 to expel South Korean tourism officials and businesspeople from its mountain resort.

Pyongyang's warning raised worries over the protracted stand-off between the two sides, triggered by the July 11 shooting death of a South Korean housewife travelling to Mt. Kumgang.

A spokesman for the North Korean unit in charge of the mountain resort area said it would kick out all South Koreans "deemed unnecessary" from the region.

The unnamed spokesman also warned in a statement that, "We will take strong military counter-actions against even the slightest hostile actions in the tourist resort in the area of Mt. Kumgang and the area under military control from now on."

It was the North's strongest action since the 53-year-old South Korean woman was gunned down by a North Korean soldier after allegedly straying into a fenced-off military zone during a pre-dawn stroll near the mountain resort on the east coast.

South Korea immediately suspended civilian tours to the resort developed by a South Korean firm in November 1998. More than one million South Koreans have visited the scenic mountain, which was cited as one of the most noted symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation but has recently formed a focal point for acrimony between the two Koreas. About 260 South Korean workers remain in the resort.

The spokesman, describing himself as speaking on behalf of higher authorities, rejected South Korean investigators' claims that the killed woman might have been walking slowly or standing still when she was shot. North Korea has argued that she was running away after ignoring repeated warnings to stop.

The South Korean government expressed "deep regret" over the North's latest threats, urging it again to cooperate in an investigation into the case.

"Expelling people staying in the Mt. Kumgang zone who have not violated the law is a clear breach of a related agreement," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said. "We can't send tourists there if this case is not resolved and tourists' security is not guaranteed."

The war of words between the two sides marked the latest sign of their worsening ties under the conservative South Korean government which has taken a tougher line on Pyongyang following a decade of liberal rule.


North Korean Students Sweep Prizes of Int'l Chinese Contest

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean students swept the prizes at an international Chinese language contest in July, adding to an already impressive series of results in earlier contests.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Aug. 5 said students of the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies' School of Foreign Languages came first to third at the First World Chinese Contest of Middle School Students held in China from July 15 to 30.

The contest brought together 87 students from 24 countries including Mongolia, Singapore, Vietnam, Russia, Portugal, Canada and the United States, the news outlet said.

At the contest Choe Hye-yong and Choe Ji-hye each came first in individual standing, while So Yun-mi claimed third place, the KCNA said, adding Choe Hye-yong was also awarded the best prize for oratory.

The North's broadcaster on Aug. 4 separately stated that such a result proves the superiority of the socialist education and the party's education policy.

The North's group of students also came first at the 12th international Russian contest in Moscow in late June, while they ranked seventh at the 49th international math olympiad in Madrid in mid-July.


N. Korea Receives Second Shipment of U.S. Food Aid

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea said on Aug. 5 the second shipment of food aid from the United States has arrived in its western port of Nampho earlier this week.

"A ship carrying the second batch of food donated by the U.S. has arrived at the Nampho port on Monday," the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported without elaborating.

The U.S. promised to send 500,000 tons of grain through the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) and non-governmental relief groups in the coming year. The first batch of around 37,000 tons of wheat arrived at the same port on June 29.

The second shipment is reportedly composed of 23,000 tons of corn.

North Korea has relied on foreign handouts to help feed its 23 million population since the late 1990s, when between one to three million people are believed to have starved to death.

The WFP's director for North Korea Jean-Pierre de Margerie said in Beijing last week that North Korea is suffering its worst food crisis in years due to rising grain prices and a poor harvest.

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