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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 51 (April 23, 2009)

All Headlines 11:14 April 23, 2009

*** NEWS IN BRIEF (Part 1)

N.K. Releases Photos of Top Military Board in Rare Publicity Move

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea in an unprecedented move released photos of all the members of its newly elected top military board in its party newspaper.

Leadership in the influential National Defense Commission (NDC) was reshuffled in a parliamentary meeting on April 9, increasing the number of members to 13 from nine and bringing in new members from outside the military.

Most notably, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who has ruled the country in his capacity as chairman of the NDC, promoted his brother-in-law, Jang Song-thaek, a powerful department director of the Workers' Party, to membership in the commission.

By appointing Jang and bolstering the NDC, analysts said, the North Korean leader set up a comprehensive system that combines the party and the military and can legitimately help run the country if Kim becomes unable to do so.

The April 10th edition of Rodong Sinmun, organ of the Worker's Party, which was published a day after the reshuffle and obtained by Yonhap News Agency on April 16, ran a photo of Kim on its first page and photos of the other commission members on the fourth page. The release of the photos breaks from Pyongyang's tradition of not publicizing commission members.

The photos of the commission members, mostly in their 70s and appearing grim and expressionless, included one of U Tong-chuk, rarely seen in public, as a security official monitoring espionage, and Paek Se-bong. Some South Korean analysts had suspected that the name Paek Se-bong was in fact a pseudonym used for Kim's second son, Jong-chol.


N.K. Youth Spearheading Economic Reconstruction: pro-Pyongyang daily

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's younger generation is standing at the forefront of a national drive to build an economically powerful country by 2012, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said on April 16.

Choson Sinbo, daily of the pro-Pyongyang Korean residents in Japan, said the North's group of scientists and technicians who contributed to the April 5 "satellite" launch were all in their 30s.

North Korea claims it has successfully put a communications satellite named Kwangmyongsong-2 into orbit aboard a long-range rocket, but neighboring states say they have not detected any new object in space.

All of them are "talented people who graduated top of their university," said the newspaper that usually represents Pyongyang's position. They "impressively contributed to upgrading the level of the nation's space technology to the world's top class while contemplating, trying to find a solution and devising ideas together with old scientists," it said.

The newspaper also noted that 25 was the average age of workers who modernized the Chollima Steel Complex, the North's leading steel mill located in the western port city of Nampho, initiating a nationwide campaign to revive the post-war economic campaign last November.

North Korea's state media have called for increased role of young people to "open the door towards building a strong, prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, the centenary of late state founder and leader Kim Il-sung's birth and the 70th birthday of current leader Kim Jong-il.


North Korean Leader Confesses Fatigue Due to Economic Drive

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has confessed he's struggling with the grinding pace of his activities but is pushing onward out of responsibility for the fate of his homeland, the North's media said on April 17.

"A man is not made of iron and ought to take care his own body. But I have no time to do so," Kim was quoted as saying by Rodong Sinmun, published by the Workers' Party, during a recent field trip.

"Why wouldn't I be tired and need more sleep?" Kim said. "Even though I'm tired, I'm pushing myself to keep going. What drives me to keep going despite the fatigue and distress? The profound sense of duty of bearing the fate of our homeland -- our people -- on my shoulders."

The 67-year-old leader, now back in control after a reported stroke last summer, has significantly increased his public activities this year, making 49 trips to places deemed important to the economy as of April 17, compared to 19 last year and 17 in 2007, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry. Watchers say Kim's stepped-up public activities are a sign that Pyongyang is striving to increase industrial output for its 2012 economic campaign.

In a New Year editorial, North Korea vowed to solve food problems and rebuild its frail industrial infrastructure by that year, which marks the centennial of Kim Il-sung's birth.

State media often portray Kim as a paternal benefactor to the nation. Two days after the April 5 rocket launch, Rodong Sinmun said Kim was "choked with sobs" as he thought of his poor citizens who may have been better off using the money that instead went towards the launch.

Pyongyang hosted a large fireworks display celebrating Kim Il-sung's birthday and the rocket launch, which his son Kim Jong-il attended with "countless" citizens cheering for him.

"The fireworks... are a preview of the feast of victory that we will enjoy in 2012," the newspaper said.

The paper said the rocket launch was a victory against "imperialist enemies," apparently referring to the U.S. and its allies, including South Korea, which threatened U.N. sanctions should Pyongyang go ahead with the launch.

Rodong Sinmun also described the launch as "fireworks" from North Korea that, armed with nuclear weapons, is declaring victory against foreign forces.


Kim Jong-il Inspects New Hydroelectric Power Plant

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has recently visited a newly constructed hydroelectric power station and demanded further massive construction of such plants, state media said on April 18.

"It is difficult to build hydro power stations, but once they are built, they become not only edifices of eternal value but also more beneficial than thermal power stations and atomic power plants in various aspects," Kim was quoted as saying by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) while inspecting the Nyongwon Power Station located in South Pyongan Province.

The media as usual did not give the date and location of the visit.

He instructed officials to find out promising reserve sites for power stations to massively construct hydro power stations and complete the ongoing construction of the Huichon Power Station as early as possible, the KCNA said.

He called on the workers of the power industry to "play a vanguard role in building a great, prosperous and powerful nation by effecting a leap forward," it said.

Kim was accompanied by Kim Ki-nam, secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), Jang Song-thaek and Pak Nam-gi, department directors of the WPK, and army Generals Hyon Chol-hae and Ri Myong-su, the report said.

Completed after 12 years of construction, Nyongwon Power Station is believed to have a generating capacity of 135,000kW. Located on the upper stream of Taedong River that runs through the capital city of Pyongyang, analysts say the facility could be used to control floods in the river zone.


North Korean Leader Watches Military Art Performance: Report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il watched a performance by a military art troupe accompanied by generals and party officials, Pyongyang's state media said on April 21.

Kim attended the ensemble performance at the Korean People's Army unit 10215, said the North's official Korean Central News Agency, without giving the date for his visit.

The performance "truthfully represented the invincible might" of the country's army to "firmly guarantee the cause of building a great prosperous and powerful socialist nation," the report said.

Kim "highly appreciated" the performance, saying the members of the squad put on art pieces "vividly reflecting the inexhaustible mental power" of the military and staged them in a "unique and militant manner."

The report said the leader set forth "important tasks" as guidelines for promoting revolutionary and militant performances.

Kim was accompanied by Jang Song-thaek, his brother-in-law and a department director of the Workers' Party who was recently promoted to membership in the National Defense Commission, along with senior military and party officials, it said.

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