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All Headlines 11:03 April 02, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N. Korea Tightens Bird Flu Quarantine Efforts with U.N. Help

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has intensified quarantine efforts "more than ever" to prevent a possible bird flu outbreak and will work closely with the United Nations, state media reported on March 25.

North Korea acknowledged a bird flu outbreak at a major chicken farm in Pyongyang in March 2005 and accepted international aid. Since then, not a single case of the infectious disease has been detected, Pyongyang officials have asserted.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the country has completed an in-depth survey of migrant birds that fly from Southeast Asia, as well as their routes and habitats.

Measures were taken to prevent the birds' access to livestock farms and villages, the report said, without elaborating on what those measures were.

"The nationwide sanitary-quarantine project to prevent avian influenza has been strengthened more than ever," the KCNA said.

North Korea "will continue to push forward this avian flu quarantine project with tenacity and through close cooperation with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization," it said.

Scientists also developed quick test kits, and residents in areas that could be affected have received medical checkups, it said.

North Korea organized the State Emergency Quarantine Committee in 2008 to cope with the bird flu pandemic, which has been a frequent problem throughout Asia, including South Korea.


N. Korean Leader Visits Construction Site of Hydraulic Power Station

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il gave field guidance at a construction site of a new hydraulic power station, the country's state-run news wire said on March 26.

Kim visited the site of Huichon Power Station in Jagang Province, a remote western region, where "one can hear only the flow of water now," said the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

"Only when the problem of electricity is solved on a priority basis, is it possible to definitely boost such pilot sectors of the national economy as metal industry, coal industry and railway transport ... for building an economic power," Kim was quoted as saying.

Kim expressed said the power plant should be completed by 2012, the target year by which North Korea seeks to have rebuilt its frail economy, the report said. The year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim's late father and North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung.

Kim, 67, has more than tripled his public activities this year, despite lingering questions about his health.

The leader is believed to have considerably recuperated after suffering a stroke last August, but recent photos showed a much slimmer Kim, with little trace of his trademark potbelly.


N. Korea Manufacturers Interested in Polishing Logo Designs

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's manufacturers are showing interest in revamping their logo designs in tandem with efforts to produce higher quality goods, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on March 26.

The North's state-run industrial design company had seen an uptick in activity due to a rise in orders for logo designs, reported the Choson Sinbo, the publication of an association of pro-Pyongyang Koreans in Japan.

The comapany has so far received orders from about 50 factories and firms this year, including Taedonggang Beer and Taehongdan Potato Processing Factory, and created some 300 trademark designs, the newspaper said.

Taedong River Beer, the North's leading beer maker, changed the background color of its logo from white to a combination of yellowish green and red this year with help from the design company and under the full support of the state, according to the report.

The new logo drew positive responses from consumers and experts alike, the newspaper said.

"These days, a fresh demand for trademark design is on the rise from factories and companies as they push for works to improve the quality of their products," Ri Byong-ik, president of the "North's Korean industrial fine arts creation company," was quoted as telling the newspaper. "We always keep it in mind that we should make designs that suit the tastes of the people."


North Korea Upbeat on Its Advance to World Cup Finals

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Following a victory over the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a World Cup qualifying match, North Koreans are buoyant about their national squad's prospects of advancing to the finals for the first time in four decades, a report said on March 30.

North Korea beat the UAE 2-0 in the 2010 World Cup qualifying Group 2 match held at Pyongyang's Kimilsung Stadium on March 28.

Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang daily printed in Japan, quoted in a Pyongyang-datelined article released two days later that football fans in the North were upbeat about their national team's chances of entering the World Cup finals this time.

North Korea has not appeared in finals since 1966 when it beat Italy to qualify for the quarter finals.

Nearly 100,000 fans turned out at the stadium, clapping and shouting for joy when their team beat the UAE, the newspaper said.

Pyongyang's streets soon turned into scenes of wild excitement with drivers sounding their horns to celebrate when they saw a bus carrying the North's national team, it said.

In a news conference following the match, head coach Kim Jong-hun vowed to do his best to meet the expectations of the people by winning in all of the remaining three qualifiers.

But, North Korea lost 1-0 to South Korea in a qualifying match held at Seoul's Sangam World Cup Stadium on April 1.


N. Korean Paper Urges Citizens to Follow Leader on Economic Drive

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's main newspaper on March 30 called on citizens to follow leader Kim Jong-il, saying the leader has been struggling for the country's economic drive despite concerns about his health.

Kim, who allegedly suffered a stroke last August, has more than tripled his public tours this year, making 44 visits as of Monday, compared to 12 during the same period last year. Some 20 of those visits were to factories in a sign of the country's stepped-up campaign to rebuild its ailing economy, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry monitoring the North's state media.

North Korea has set 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim's late father and the country's founder, Kim Il-sung, as the target year for achieving a "Kangsong Taeguk" (great, prosperous and powerful nation) that is self-sufficient in food and equipped with industrial infrastructure.

"This year is a pivotal year that will become a watershed in achieving our party's grand plan," Rodong Sinmun, published by the North's Workers' Party, said in an editorial.

"All workers should live in the spirit of our great general who has set himself a hard schedule and should become men of action in the era of a great surge," it said.

The editorial did not directly mention Kim's health, but concerns were voiced in the same paper on March 28. It quoted Kim, 67, as saying, "Comrades worry about my health as I am about to make another field guidance trip, but it is my pleasure to walk on the rough road for our homeland and for our people."

The March 30 editorial also emphasized science technology, saying it is paramount to the country's economic drive. But it did not mention the country's upcoming satellite launch, which is set to take place between April 4 and 8. Pyongyang claims the launch is part of its space development program but the U.S. and South Korea suspect is a cover for a long-range missile test.

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