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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 67 (August 13, 2009)

All Headlines 10:53 August 13, 2009


N. Korea Media's Anti-Lee Rhetoric Drops 40 Percent in July

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's bashing of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak waned in July compared to two previous months, according to a government count on Aug. 7.

The number of North Korean media reports and commentaries critical of Lee amounted to 275 last month, down approximately 40 percent from 454 in June, according to the Unification Ministry in Seoul.

The number is also less than 333 in May, but slightly higher compared to the 207 in April.

Ministry officials, however, did not read too much into the changes, saying that the figures in the preceding months were unusually high following North Korea's second nuclear test in late May and a string of missile tests in the following weeks.

"The critical views toward the South were fewer compared to a temporary spike following the nuclear and other military provocations in May and June," an official said.

Criticisms of the South Korean government also dropped to four from 23 in May and 13 in June, according to the ministry.

The relationship between the two Korea has been virtually severed since Lee took office in February last year with a vow to link cross-border rapprochement with North Korean denuclearization efforts.


N. Korea Credits Heir-apparent for Clinton's Trip to Pyongyang

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's youngest son for having former U.S. President Bill Clinton's come to Pyongyang last week to fetch two American journalists, sources well informed about the North said on Aug. 9, apparently to build up the achievements of the heir-apparent.

Clinton traveled to the socialist state during two days starting Aug. 4 to bring back two female journalists detained for some 140 days after being apprehended near the North Korea-China border. They were charged with illegal entry and unspecified "hostile acts" and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

After hours of talks with Clinton, Kim Jong-il granted them pardon. The journalists returned to the U.S. with the former president on Aug. 5.

The North's National Security Agency, a spy agency and powerful organ of the North Korean leadership, claimed in a recent lecture that Clinton had to come and apologize before the North Korean leader because of the "outstanding tactics" of Kim Jong-un, the sources said.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they noted a similar kind of "resume building" took place when Kim Jong-il was picked as the successor to his father, North Korea's founder, Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-il, 26 years old at the time with very little known about his personal achievements, was given credit for the 1968 seizure of a U.S. military ship, Pueblo.

Jong-un, now 26, is said to have been named the successor to his 67-year-old father who reportedly suffered a stroke last year.

The sources said the North Korean spy agency has also begun referring to Jong-un as a "general."


U.S. Not to Reward N. Korea for Recent Provocations: State Dept.

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 10 said it will not reward North Korea for its recent provocations and reiterated calls for Pyongyang to return to the six-party talks on its nuclear dismantlement.

"They are not going to be rewarded, as the secretary and president said, for their previous behavior," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, referring to the pledge by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to reward the North just because of its coming back to the multilateral talks without taking substantial measures for its denuclearization.

"It's not going to have that kind of a relationship if it continues along -- the behavior along the lines that it's exhibited in the past," he said. "We want them to come back to the table and negotiate based on the commitments that they've made. And the ball, we believe, right now is in the court of North Korea."

Critics have said North Korea has used the talks since their inception in 2003 to buy time to build a nuclear arsenal. Its first nuclear test in 2006 was followed by a second in May.

"I think the president and Secretary Clinton have spoken very clearly on this that the North cannot be rewarded for its past behavior," Wood said. "Simply, what the North needs to do is to live up to its obligations. If you remember, the North signed on to the joint statement from 2005, committing to a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

The six-party deal, signed in September 2005 by the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, calls for the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for massive economic aid, diplomatic recognition by the U.S. and Japan and establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War.

Pyongyang, however, has said it will boycott the multilateral talks for good due to U.N. Security Council sanctions for its recent nuclear and missile tests.

Instead, the North has called for direct talks with the U.S. which Washington declined, and threatened to continue sanctioning Pyongyang until it returns to the multilateral negotiations.


Iranian Activist Slams N. Korea over Human Rights Conditions

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- An Iranian human rights lawyer on Aug. 10 expressed deep concern about conditions inside North Korea, taking particular aim at what she called the socialist regime's excessive control over its media.

Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Prize laureate and human rights advocate, made the rare remark on North Korea during a news conference in Seoul.

"I am concerned about the human rights condition in North Korea," said the 62-year-old activist, who arrived here on Aug. 8 for a six-day trip that includes her acceptance of the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace during a ceremony on Aug. 12.

"The most critical one is that the national media organizations are controlled (by the government) and the Kim Jong-il regime is not allowing the media to report on what happens in the country."

Forced to resign as her country's first female judge after leading an anti-corruption campaign in the 1970s, Ebadi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her efforts to improve democracy and human rights in Iran, especially for women, children, and refugees. She was the first Iranian to be awarded the coveted prize.


U.S. Sanctions Another N.K. Bank for WMD Involvement: Treasury Dept.

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The United States on Aug. 11 blacklisted another North Korean financial institution for its affiliations with North Korean firms and banks already sanctioned under U.N. resolutions adopted after North Korea's nuclear and missile tests in recent years.

In a statement, the Department of Treasury said it has "designated the Korea Kwangson Banking Corp. (KKBC) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13382 for providing financial services in support of both Tanchon Commercial Bank (Tanchon) and Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation (Hyoksin), a subordinate of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation (Ryonbong)."

Executive Order 13382 "freezes the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters and prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with them, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial and commercial systems."

Hyoksin is among five North Korean firms blacklisted by the U.N. Security Council in June under Resolution 1874, adopted after North Korea's second nuclear test on May 25.

Ryonbong was among three North Korean firms targeted by the Security Council in 2006 under Resolution 1718, adopted after the North's first nuclear test in 2006.

The additional listing comes amid growing optimism for a breakthrough in the stalled negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program after the landmark visit to Pyongyang by former U.S. President Bill Clinton last week to win the release of two American journalists held there for four months for illegally entering the North.

In blacklisting KKBC, Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said, "North Korea's use of a little-known bank, KKBC, to mask the international financial business of sanctioned proliferators demonstrates the lengths to which the regime will go to continue its proliferation activities and the high risk that any business with North Korea may well be illicit."

KKBC is based in North Korea and has operated at least one overseas branch, in Dandong, China, according to the department.

Tanchon, Ryonbong and Hyoksin have already been listed by the U.N. resolution as well as the Treasury Department for their involvement in the North Korean WMD programs.

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