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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 46 (March 19, 2009)

All Headlines 10:35 March 19, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

In Unusual Move, N. Korea Reports Coal Mine Collapse

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- In a rare move, North Korea's state-run newspaper recently reported the collapse of a coal mine that left 29 people trapped underground for a week.

In its Feb. 27 issue, Rodong Sinmun said all the miners trapped were "miraculously" rescued thanks to their "indomitable will" to survive and help from local residents.

The report was usual for North Korea, where government monitors tightly control the flow of information and negative news coverage is largely absent. The story occupied the entire fourth page of the paper.

According to the report, the miners were trapped underground after a tunnel roof collapsed in the early hours of Feb. 14 and had since subsisted on food delivered through a hole. It did not say how deep the tunnel ran.

Rescue teams and local residents drilled for days to reach the miners, who swore loyalty to leader Kim Jong-il even as they faced death and vowed to play an even larger role in rebuilding the country into a powerful state, the newspaper said.

The mine was operated by the Anju Area Coal Mining Complex in South Pyongan Province.


North Korean Leader Observes Artillery Exercise

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited a field artillery unit and observed a live fire exercise, the socialist country's media reported on March 14.

The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim, who heads the National Defense Commission (NDC), toured Unit 1811 but did not disclose the location or date.

The report said the exercise demonstrated the "fighting spirit and resolute determination of the North to wipe out aggression in a single blow" and added Kim expressed great satisfaction at the level of preparedness displayed by servicemen.

(North) Korean People's Army Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun and other high-ranking military officers and members of the ruling Worker's Party of (North) Korea (WPK) accompanied the North Korean leader.

Pyongyang watchers in Seoul said that while the North Korean leader frequently visits military bases, the review of the artillery unit is significant because it marks the third such tour this year.

Although the North's military technology is generally outdated, its long-range artillery and coastal battery installments have considerable striking power.

North Korea has threatened to take action against Seoul for raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula by participating in the annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercise with the United States, which ends March 20.

Three days later, the KCNA said Kim Jong-il made his visit to Sungri Motor Complex in the county of Dokchon, South Pyongan Province.


N. Koreans Volunteer to Join Army: Pro-Pyongyang Daily

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Meetings are being held across North Korea as volunteers organize to join the army, a pro-Pyongyang daily reported on March 16, as Pyongyang ratcheted up threats against the United States and South Korea in protest of their joint military drill.

"Meetings for resolving to volunteer to join the Korean People's Army are under way all over the country," Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korea daily based in Japan, wrote in a Pyongyang-datelined article without elaborating.

Factories and companies in North Korea have also hung banners emblazoned with agitative slogans such as, "Let's more vigorously leap forward with a mind to punish aggressors," the newspaper said, reflecting a warlike mood across the country.

North Korea cut off a military hotline last week with South Korea, the last remaining official communications channel, denouncing the country's ongoing March 9-20 joint exercise with the U.S. as a rehearsal for a "second Korean War."

The North has also warned it can no longer guarantee the safety of South Korean passenger jets in its airspace while the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise -- which involves over 25,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of South Korean soldiers -- is underway.

The North's state Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station has also recently aired video clips of the North Korean military back in 1993, when the country was at "semi-war status" as it entered the early stages of a dispute over its nuclear program.

The station also broadcast a documentary film in support of the North's claim that it has always won in battles against the U.S.

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