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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 42 (February 19, 2009)

All Headlines 11:01 February 19, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

Cabinet Office in Charge of Films Organized

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea announced on Feb. 11 it has created a new Cabinet office in charge of filmmaking activities.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, the country's rubber stamp parliament, issued a decree on organizing the State Film Commission that day.

The commission is a Cabinet office, the report said citing the decree.

North Korea has so far had a bureau under the Ministry of Culture oversee all movie-related work.

The creation will increase the number of organizations constituting the North Korean Cabinet from 37 to 38.


North Korea Calls for Tighter Quality Control

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Feb. 12 urged workers to improve the quality of their products to properly meet the demands of the people.

Rodong Sinmun, the most influential newspaper in the North as organ of the Workers' Party, made the call as the country marked a month dedicated to enhancing the quality of commodities.

Since 1998, North Korea has marked every February and July as campaign months for tighter quality control.

"We can smoothly live up to physical and cultural demands of the people and make a bigger stride in our struggle to build a thriving country by improving quality of products and structures," the newspaper said.

To increase quality, all factories and companies must set up a scientific quality control system while thoroughly abiding by technical rules and industrial standards and more strictly inspecting quality of products and buildings under construction, it said.

It also recommended them to hold various commodities exhibitions and contests so as to draw the people's attention to the national campaign and encourage them to actively submit worthy ideas and suggestions.


N. Korean Leader Makes More Public Tours Ahead of Birthday

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il continued a brisk public tour with visits to factories and an agricultural university, Pyongyang's state-run media said on Feb. 13, as the country stepped up a worship campaign ahead of the birthday of the "dear leader."

Kim celebrated his 67th birthday three days later, amid signs that he has significantly recovered from a reported stroke last August. The nation has been celebrating for weeks, with flower exhibitions, parades to his birth home and banquets with foreign dignitaries.

Ahead of the holiday, Kim visited the Wonsan Glass Bottle Factory, Shoes Factory and Chemical Factory before meeting with students at the Wonsan University of Agriculture in the eastern North Korean city, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"The factory has steadily increased the production with locally available materials by consolidating the material and technical foundation by its own efforts," Kim was quoted as saying by the KCNA about the glass plant.

"The experience of this factory once again proves the truth that a great leap forward is sure to be effected in the production and construction," he said.

The aging leader has made a significantly larger number of public inspections this year, making 23 visits as of Feb. 13 compared to nine during the same period last year and 10 in 2007.


Kim Jong-il Registers As Candidate in 333rd Constituency

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has registered as a candidate in the 333rd military constituency ahead of the country's parliamentary election, state media said on Feb. 18.

The move was announced in an open letter to his people, according the North's Korean Central News Agency. Kim usually chooses to run in the first military constituency to nominate him, although all constituencies do so in a symbolic gesture.

The collective nomination "is an expression of their absolute support for and trust in our party," Kim said. "I extend my heartfelt thanks to the entire electorate of the country for their deep trust in me."

The leader represented different military constituencies in previous elections -- the 666th in 1998 and the 649th in 2003.

The North's parliamentary vote is a direct election, but only one candidate is appointed per district by the ruling Workers' Party and thus all are elected with 100 percent approval. The current 687 delegates were picked in 2003.

In his letter, Kim Jong-il also encouraged citizens to vote, calling the election a "significant" part of the nation's ongoing economic drive.

"The election to the 12th Supreme People's Assembly is all the more significant in that it is to be held in a pulsating period where a fresh revolutionary upsurge is being brought about on all fronts of the building of a great, prosperous and powerful country," Kim was quoted by the KCNA as saying.

"The forthcoming election will exalt the dignity and authority of our socialist country," Kim said, while stressing that it demonstrates "the might of our single-hearted unity."


N. Korean Leader Healthy Enough to Walk Up Mountain: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il walked several kilometers up a steep mountain as he gave field guidance at a mountainside resort near Pyongyang last month, a pro-North newspaper in Japan said on Feb. 17.

In an apparent attempt to convey that Kim has fully recovered from a reported stroke last August, Choson Sinbo said Kim declined repeated calls by accompanying officials to cut his hike short and ascended to Daebong peak on Mt. Ryongak on Jan. 17.

The leader "took the inspection route spanning several kilometers" from a pond to a pavilion on top of the mountain, it said.

"His accompanying officials told the general that the road is precipitous and has many stairs and proposed he now turn back," the report said. "Then, the general said they've come this far and couldn't stop here and led the way."

Kim, who turned 67 on Monday, sharply increased his public inspections this year, making 23 visits as of last week compared to nine during the same period last year and 10 in 2007.

Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said the Choson Sinbo report is "believed to be factual," adding the report seemed to suggest that the leader is "healthy enough to walk up a mountain."


Former N. Korean People's Armed Forces Minister Demoted

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Kim Il-chol, former minister of the People's Armed Forces of North Korea, has been demoted to the post of the ministry's first vice minister, according to the North's state media.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reshuffled the military ahead of parliamentary elections to be held on March 8.

Vice Marshal of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) Kim Yong-chun, 73, was appointed as the minister of the People's Armed Forces of the National Defense Commission, replacing Kim Il-chol. The position is thought to be equivalent to defense minister.

Kim Il-chol's post was not known after the military reshuffle, but he was referred to as first-vice minister of the People's Armed Forces in a report by the North's Korean Central Broadcasting Station, covering a gathering held in Pyongyang to celebrate Kim Jong-il's candidacy.

The North Korean leader will run in the 333rd military constituency in elections for the 12th Supreme People's Assembly, according to North Korea's media reports.


N.K. Military Vows Loyalty to Leader's 'Bloodline' Ahead of Election

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's vice defense minister pledged his loyalty to leader Kim Jong-il's "bloodline" on Feb. 18 as Pyongyang prepared to hold parliamentary elections amid growing speculation over succession in the communist state.

The election, set for March 8, is seen by some analysts as an event that will pave the way for Kim's successor.

The theme of "bloodline" and "inheritance" has been recurring in state media and senior officials' remarks in recent weeks.

"We will firmly carry on the bloodline of Mangyongdae and Mt. Paektu with our guns, faithfully upholding the leadership of our supreme commander," Pak Jae-kyong, vice minister of the People's Armed Forces, the body equivalent to South Korea's defense ministry, said in a gathering to celebrate Kim's candidacy.

Mangyongdae refers to the birthplace of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang, while Mt Paektu, on the border with China, is the official birthplace of current leader Kim Jong-il, although Soviet records show he was actually born in a Soviet village.

In similar references, the ruling Workers' Party editorial called for the "inheritance of bloodline" on the leader's birthday. On Feb. 6, the party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, emphasized the spirit of the "Mangyongdae family" in building a strong nation.

Intelligence sources told Yonhap last month that Kim, apparently driven by his poor health, named his third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor on Jan. 8.

The Mainichi Shimbun, a Japanese daily, also said on Feb 17 that the third son has been selected.

The current leader took over in the first hereditary power succession in a socialist regime when Kim Il-sung died in 1994.

In an open letter to citizens earlier in the day, Kim said he decided to run in the 333rd military constituency and encouraged citizens to vote.

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