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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 50 (April 16, 2009)

All Headlines 11:02 April 16, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

Rallies Held to Congratulate Kim's Reelection as NDC Chairman

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Koreans had a series of meetings and rallies throughout the country to congratulate Kim Jong-il's reelection to a third term as leader of the socialist country, buoyed by a rocket launch heralded in state media as "historic."

The North's rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly re-appointed Kim on April 9 as chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission, a title with which he rules the country.

About 100,000 Pyongyang citizens gathered at Kimilsung Square the following day to vow their unswerving loyalty to the leader who reportedly suffered a stroke last year.

Speaking at the rally, Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the Workers' Party, said Kim Jong-il's reelection was a show of the people's "absolute support and trust in him" and their will to accomplish the revolutionary cause of Songun, or military-first politics, under his guidance.

North Korea will keep reinforcing its "military deterrence" to defend its sovereignty amid rising tension with South Korea and the United States, Kim Ki-nam said in his speech carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The North will "sternly and mercilessly" hit and defeat enemies should they dare to launch a preemptive strike on the socialist state despite its repeated warnings, he said.

The Ministry of People's Security and the People's Armed Forces Ministry held separate meetings in Pyongyang the same day to congratulate Kim Jong-il's reelection, according to the North's news media.

Kim Yong-chun, minister of the People's Armed Forces, urged all soldiers at one of the rallies to preserve the commanding post of the revolution led by leader Kim Jong-il even at the cost of their lives, according to the Korean Central Broadcasting Station the following day. Kim Jong-il was described as the "destiny" of the (North) Korean nation and the "banner of immortal victory" in the speech, the KCNA said.

Similar rallies followed by Pyongyang's trade union members and agricultural workers as well as residents of provincial cities.

Trade union members and farmers had separate meetings to celebrate Kim's reappointment in Pyongyang on April 12 and residents of South Pyongan, South Hwanghae, North Hwanghae, Kangwon and Ryanggang provinces on April 13, the KCNA said.


N.K. Media Trumpet Outcome of Pyongyang's Facelifting Projects

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state media have recently covered in detail the outcome of a national drive to beautify Pyongyang, showing how much attention the authorities are paying to the project.

Several shops and landmark buildings in Pyongyang have been remodeled and modernized ahead of the 97th anniversary of late leader Kim Il-sung's birth, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on April 12.

Kim's birthday, which falls on April 16, is one of the country's most festive holidays along with the birthday of current leader Kim Jong-il.

Eighteen restaurants along the city's famous restaurant district of Changwang were decorated with colorful tiles that well suit the people's "cultural need" and the feature of food they serve, according to the report. Well matched with surrounding high-rise buildings and houses, the renovated restaurants make the street look more cheerful and polished, it said.

Houses and public buildings in Bonghwa Street were also beautified with different colored exterior finishes and tiles. In addition, Pyongyang has changed street lighting, repaved sidewalks, created flower beds and grass fields, the KCNA said.

During the first session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly on April 9, North Korea said it will increase spending for city management by 11.5 percent this year. It also created a Cabinet office in charge of capital construction affairs, signaling the ongoing beautification project will receive a further boost.


Kim Jong-il Has Become Haggard: N.K. Daily

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appeared haggard in a recent public appearance, the country's top newspaper said on April 12 after other state media released a series of photo and video images showing the leader visibly greyer, thinner and limping slightly.

Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the Workers' Party, said managers and workers at a Pyongyang special products factory lost their words in sorrow when the "fatherly general who has become haggard" visited their workplace for on-site guidance on April 7. They all wept after Kim left, it said.

The newspaper's direct description of the leader's appearance is unusual because Kim's health is a taboo subject in one of the world's most reclusive and tightly controlled nations.

North Korea's state media have only indicated Kim is sick by repeatedly wishing for his good health and well being in commentaries.

Kim silenced speculation on his health on April 9 when he arrived to a standing ovation from fellow deputies to the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament. It was his first major public appearance since reportedly suffering a stroke last August.

Limping slightly, he walked about 10 steps onto the stage, raised his arms high to clap and then motioned for the deputies to be seated, footage broadcast on state TV showed.

The 67-year-old leader had been conspicuously absent from major public events, including a parade to mark the 60th anniversary of the regime, after the suspected stroke, which raised questions about his grip over the country's stability.

The leader's no-shows have fuelled speculation about his illness although Pyongyang has steadfastly denied that he has been ill.


N. Korea Celebrates Founder's Birthday with Accusation Against U.S.

SEOUL (Yonhap) - North Korea on April 14 accused the United States and South Korea of plotting to invade its territory, as festivities got underway around the country to celebrate the birth of its late founder, Kim Il-sung.

North Korea held a national meeting at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on the eve of Kim's 97th birthday, the North's state-run Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. Similar events took place nationwide on the same day, it said.

In the Pyongyang meeting, Kim Yong-nam, North Korea's titular head of state, accused the U.S. and South Korea of trying to invade the country and warned it will respond with "merciless punishment" in the face of aggression and added the country has a "powerful war deterrent" to defend itself.

The remarks came as South Korea planned to become fully active in a U.S.-led drive to halt the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and related materials, an escalation from its current status as an observer.

Pyongyang has said such a move would be tantamount to a "declaration of war."

Seoul is expected to announce its decision to fully join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) in the near future. One of the PSI's main targets is North Korea.

"Grave obstacles are lying in the way of the country's reunification due to the reckless moves of the U.S. and the pro-U.S. conservative authorities of South Korea for a war of aggression against the DPRK (North Korea)," Kim said.

He did not directly mention the PSI.

"If the U.S. and the anti-reunification aggressor forces of South Korea ignite a war on this land in the end," Kim said, "all the servicepersons and people will display the invincible spirit and powerful war deterrent for self-defense... and accomplish the historic cause of national reunification."

PSI member nations may stop, interdict and seize ships suspected of carrying contraband in their territorial waters, and in international waters in some cases.

Meanwhile, North Korea commemorated Kim Il-sung's birthday with various functions.

On April 10, the 26th April Spring Friendship Art Festival opened in Pyongyang with a ceremony attended by Yang Hyong-sop, vice president of the Supreme People's Assembly Presidium, and Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the North's Workers' Party, the KCNA said.

The 11th Kimilsungia Festival also got underway in Pyongyang, displaying more than 20,000 of the orchids named after the founder, the news agency said.

And also, the KCNA on April 15 says a grand evening of fireworks was held on the bank of the Taedong River in Pyongyang on the previous day to commemorate the 97th anniversary of Kim Il-sung's birth.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il unexpectedly attended the firework display to honor his late father. The KCNA reported that Kim watched the fireworks that took place in Pyongyang along with "countless" numbers of citizens who cheered the leader.


North Korean Leader Kim Jong-il Promotes 54 Army Generals

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on April 14 promoted 54 army generals in an annual promotion timed with the 97th anniversary of late leader Kim Il-sung's birth.

Col. Gen. Kim Won-hong was promoted to General and Lieutenant Generals Ko Su-il and U Tong-chuk to colonel general, according to the Order No. 0029 issued by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in his capacity as Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army.

The leader also promoted 14 major generals and 37 commanding officers in the order carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that day.

Kim has made annual promotions of army generals ahead of his late father's birthday which falls on April 16.

Earlier, the same agency said on April 11 that Pyongyang awarded the "Kimilsung Prize" to five scientists, artists and sports players and the "Kimilsung Medal" to 11 others, mostly army generals and public officials, for their contribution to the state.

Among them were Pak Hye-jong, head coach of the North's national women's weightlifting team who guided Pak Hyon-suk to gold in the Beijing Olympics last year, according to the report.

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