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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 30 (November 20, 2008)

All Headlines 10:30 November 20, 2008

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

North Korea Says Solving Food Problem is Politically Important

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A state-run broadcaster in North Korea, which has suffered from chronic food shortages for more than a decade, said solving the food crisis is politically important.

The North's state-run Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) said on Nov. 14 that solving the food problem is the No. 1 priority for protecting the North's political system and its institutions, adding a solution to the food shortage is critical to the esteem of the North's socialism.

North Korea has depended upon international handouts to feed its 23 million people since the mid-1990s, while its food rationing system, an important means of control over the state's population, has almost crashed.

"As we have unity in our hearts and a strong military power, we have nothing to fear as long as we solve the food problem," the KCBS said.

The broadcaster urged officials, party members and workers to regard solving the food problem as a political project, adding that such a solution will elevate the political and ideological power of the revolutionary headquarters, help build trust in socialism among the people and display the people's will for building a "Kangsong Taeguk," or great, prosperous and powerful nation.


Kim Jong-il Attends Military Art Performance in Succession

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has attended a military art performance, the North's news outlets reported amid lingering suspicions about his health.

Kim Jong-il "warmly waved back to the enthusiastically cheering performers and congratulated them on their successful presentation," the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Nov. 15 said, without giving a date or the venue of his appearance.

The KCNA said Kim Jong-il watched the show along with several senior military officials.

The performance was presented by the crew of a warship under Navy Unit 155 of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA), a company under KPA Unit 833 and a company under KPA Unit 1313 as part of the 32nd military art festival, it said.

On the next day, the KCNA also said Kim Jong-il appreciated an art performance given by soldiers of a company under KPA Unit 235, a company under KPA Unit 851 and a company under KPA Unit 507 at the 32nd military art festival.

After nearly two-months of silence following rumors that Kim Jong-il suffered a stroke, North Korea started reporting a series of undated public appearances by Kim in late October in an apparent effort to dispel speculation that his health is failing.

The reclusive North Korean leader's last public appearance prior to the rumors was on Aug. 14, when North Korean media released a photo of him inspecting a women soldiers' unit.

Seoul officials believe Kim suffered a stroke and underwent brain surgery in August.

Earlier in November, North Korea showed several photos of Kim watching a soccer game between soldiers. In the photos, believed to have been taken in late October given the background foliage, Kim is smiling with his left hand weakly hanging from his jacket pocket, a possible sign of paralysis.


North Korea Appoints So Se-phong as New Ambassador to Iran

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has appointed a new ambassador to Iran, a North Korean radio broadcaster monitored in Seoul reported on Nov. 16.

"An order given by the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly appointed So Se-phyong as an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Islamic Republic of Iran," reported North Korea's official Radio Pyongyang and the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station.

So is known to have served as the North Korean Consul at Karachi, but no other information was revealed.

The incumbent ambassador Kim Chang-ryong has served in Iran since March 2004.

North Korea established diplomatic ties with Iran in 1973.

Vice President of Iran Mohammad Javad Haji Ali Akbari, heading the delegation of the National Youth Organization of Iran, visited North Korea last week.

Meanwhile, the North's official Korean Central News Agency says on Nov. 17 Rim Hoe-song was appointed as DPRK ambassador to India, according to a decree of the Presidium of the SPA.


N. Korean Women Team win U-17 FIFA Championship

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's soccer team came from behind to clinch a 2-1 win on Nov. 16 over the United States, claiming FIFA's inaugural U-17 women's World Cup championship in New Zealand.

The U.S. scored just 2 minutes into the game at the North Harbour Stadium in Auckland with a long throw by Cloee Colohan.

But North Koreans equalized with 14 minutes left on the clock as Kim Un-hyang headed in a glancing free-kick by a teammate, forcing overtime.

Jang Hyun-sun sealed the victory with a right-footer in the second half of extra time.

North Korea had also won the 2006 U-20 women's World Cup, becoming the first Korean team to win a FIFA-hosted championship.

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