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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 43 (February 26, 2009)

All Headlines 11:05 February 26, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

Science-Technology Key to Production Increase: Rodong Sinmun

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea urged citizens to develop the nation's science and technology as quickly as possible, calling it a "key" to increasing agricultural and industrial output.

In its annual goal-setting New Year's joint editorial, the North emphasized the "imperative" need to see science and technology as the basis of economic development.

"Sharply increasing production based on the rapid development of science and technology is the basic trend of economic development in the current age," the official Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Workers' Party, said in a Feb. 14 article.

"To develop science and technology is the most imperative task," it said, describing the field a key to production increase and a guarantee of economic self-reliance.

"If our science and technology lags behind, we cannot prevent our economy from weakening and eventually coming under the complete control of others," the newspaper warned.


N. Korean Leader Promotes Loyal Aide in Military Shakeup

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appointed his loyal aide to the No. 2 post in the National Defense Commission on Feb. 20, state media said, in another sign of the aging leader consolidating his circle.

"O Kuk-ryol was appointed as vice-chairman of the NDC," the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a brief statement. The post is second only to Kim, chairman of the defense commission, which controls the North's 1.2-million-strong army.

Kim conducted a broader shakeup last week, appointing his close confidants as the nation's defense minister and chief of the military General Staff. The reshuffle signaled that the 67-year-old leader is making important decisions after suffering a stroke in August.

O, 78, a former air force commander and currently general of the (North) Korean People's Army, was a kingmaker who helped Kim win military support after he was tapped as heir in the early 1980s, said an analyst in Seoul. "O is a military elder whom Kim Jong-il trusts."

Born in China's Jilin province in 1931, O shares a long history with a loyal family. His father was a member of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung's anti-Japanese guerrilla unit, and O is said to have received care and attention from Kim Jong-il's mother, Kim Jong-suk, while he was a boy. He used a car given by Kim Jong-il.

Educated in Russia, he tried to reform the North Korean military and reduce its political functions in the late 1980s, but he was threatened with demotion amid a harsh backlash until leader Kim came to his rescue, sources say.

He is considered to be combat-savvy and has rarely appeared in North Korean media. Sources say one of his sons is a close confidante of leader Kim's third and youngest son, Kim Jong-un, who, sources say, was tapped as successor last month.


North Korea Gears up for 2012 Olympic Games: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is making efforts to improve the competence of its athletes under a long-term plan with the aim of increasing its medal take in the 2012 London Olympics, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on Feb. 20.

During the Beijing Olympics last year, North Korea won two golds, one silver and three bronze medals, the best record for the country in 16 years.

North Korea has launched a long-term plan beginning this year to train its athletes for the London Olympics, according to the Choson Sinbo, organ of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan.

To achieve the goal, the North plans to send its athletes to various international competitions this year, it said.

North Koreans will compete in seven out of 23 events at the 5th East Asian Games, set to open in Hong Kong in December, the newspaper said. The events are men's soccer, the marathon, shooting, weightlifting, judo, swimming and track and field.

"Our goal is not to increase the number of events that we are in," Kim U-ra, a 41-year-old senior member of the North's Physical Culture and Sports Guidance Commission, was quoted as saying by the daily. "It is our basic stance that we send a select few players to fields where we can expect good results."


N. Korean Leader Visits Country's Northeast, Near Launch Site

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has given field guidance to various facilities in the country's northeast, state media said on Feb. 25, as he appeared to be touring a province where rocket launch preparations are underway.

It was not known whether Kim arranged his visit to North Hamgyong Province with regard to the preparations. A Seoul spokesman said Kim makes a nationwide tour at the beginning of every year.

North Korea said on Feb. 24 that it will set off a "communications satellite" from its launch site in Hwadae County while Kim has reportedly been visiting other towns in North Hamgyong since last weekend. Hoeryong, a town bordering China that Kim was said to have toured in Wednesday's report, is located opposite the launch base in the same province.

The North's ruling Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the leader started his itinerary at the birthplace of his late mother, Kim Jong-suk, who died in 1949 when he was seven.

"Time flies, one generation is replaced by another," he was quoted as saying as he emphasized that greater efforts should be made to educate the people on the country's revolutionary traditions.

Kim also visited the Hoeryong Essential Foodstuff Factory and Hoeryong Taesong Cigarette Factory, whose products are supplied to soldiers in the region, and the Hoeryong Branch of the Central Bank and the Honored Thrice Red Flag Kimkisong Hoeryong Middle School No. 1, the KCNA said.

The report did not mention the planned rocket launch. Seoul's Unification Ministry could not say whether Kim's extensive trip is related to the launch or just part of his regular public activity, as he has sharply increased nationwide inspection tours this year. Kim is believed to have considerably recovered since his reported stroke last August.

"It seems to be certain that Kim is now well enough, but we don't know whether he visited there to encourage industrial production or if his visit is related to the missile launch," ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyoun said.

The KCNA on Feb. 25 said the leader was accompanied by Workers' Party senior officials including department directors of the party's central committee Pak Nam-gi and Jang Song-thaek, Kim's brother-in-law.


North Korea Appeals for 100 Percent Voter Turnout

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea called on Feb. 24 for a "100 percent" voter turnout in upcoming parliamentary elections to demonstrate to the outside world the "invincible" might of the socialist country.

The Democratic Front for the Reunification of (North) Korea, a quasi-government group in Pyongyang, made the call in an appeal adopted during a meeting of its central committee.

The North's parliamentary vote is a direct election, though only one candidate is appointed per district by the ruling Workers' Party. Thus all are elected with 100 percent approval.

"Let's take part in the election for deputies to the Supreme People's Assembly without fail and vote in favor," said the appeal, which was reported by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the following day.

"Let's demonstrate to the entire world the might of our people united solidly under the leadership of the Great General (Kim Jong-il)," the appeal urged.

It said the election is all the more significant in that it is to be held in a historical period where an all-out economic drive to open the door for building a thriving nation in 2012, the centennial of Comrade Kim Il-sung's birth, is briskly under way."

The meeting in Pyongyang was attended by Kim Jung-rin, a secretary of the Workers' Party, Kim Yong-dae, head of the Social Democratic Party, Ryu Mi-yong, chairwoman of the Chondoist Chongu Party, and members of the Democratic Front's Central Committee.

The current 687 delegates were picked in 2003. North Korea skipped the election originally scheduled for last year amid rumors that Kim Jong-il had suffered a stroke in August. Kim registered himself as a candidate in the 333rd military constituency for the upcoming election.

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