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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 75 (October 8, 2009)

All Headlines 10:48 October 08, 2009


Inter-Korean Trade Down 24 Pct Amid Frozen Ties: Lawmaker

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Trade and other commercial exchanges between the two Koreas fell more than 20 percent in the first eight months of 2009 from a year ago due to frayed inter-Korean relations, a lawmaker said on Oct. 3.

Trade in the January-August period came to US$923 million, down 24 percent from the $1.22 billion tallied in the same period last year, Rep. Noh Young-min of the main opposition Democratic Party said, citing a report he received from the Unification Ministry.

Inter-Korean trade, which stood at $1.06 billion in 2005, later climbed to $1.8 billion in 2008, but fell substantially after the conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak came to power last year, according to Noh.

Since Lee was sworn into office, the Seoul government has maintained a tougher stance on the North's nuclear program, halting state aid to the impoverished North.

Noh also pointed out that the accumulated deficit of 89 South Korean companies operating factories at a joint complex run in the North snowballed to $33.8 million following traffic restrictions imposed by the North last December.

The North lifted the cross-border traffic restriction just in September.

"It is imperative for the government to introduce measures to fundamentally resolve the current state of frozen relations," Noh said.

Currently, more than 100 South Korean firms operate with about 40,000 North Korean workers in the Kaesong complex, which was an outcome of the first inter-Korean summit between then South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2000.


N. Korea Presses S. Korea Again for Return of 11 Alleged Defectors

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Oct. 5 again demanded the return of 11 of its citizens who sailed to South Korea four days prior in an apparent defection attempt, but Seoul reaffirmed it will allow them to stay.

The North Koreans -- six women and five men -- were found drifting off South Korea's east coast on Oct. 1 aboard a 3-ton wooden boat and are now undergoing interrogation by South Korean authorities.

Seoul's Unification Ministry, in charge of inter-Korean relations, said all of the North Koreans expressed their desire to seek asylum in the South, denying some media reports that two of them were undecided.

The Oct. 5 fax message from the North was its third to press for their repatriation. The ministry responded a day ago, saying the North Koreans were defectors and it was willing to go through a procedure for the North to confirm their intentions firsthand.

Ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said she expected Seoul to send another message to the North on Oct. 6, but "that will be only to reaffirm its position." The North usually issues repeated messages in such cases, she added.

The ministry did not disclose what North Korea said in its messages.

The alleged defections occurred at a sensitive time, as North Korea was reaching out to improve ties with South Korea's conservative government. In a major sign of thawing relations, the Koreas held reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War from Sept. 26 to Oct. 1, the first such event in nearly two years.

Investigators earlier said the North Koreans departed from Kimchaek, a port on the North's east coast, on the night of Sept. 27 and sailed as far as 250km southeast into international waters to avoid the North's radar.

Most North Koreans defect to South Korea via China. Defections through the tightly guarded inter-Korean sea and land borders are rare.

More than 16,000 North Koreans have defected since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.


Seoul Corrects Name Spelling of North's Heir-Apparent

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government acknowledged on Oct. 6 that it erred in the Korean spelling of the name of North Korea's heir-apparent, Kim Jong-un. Officials clarified that his given name is pronounced "jeong-eun," not "jeong-un" (rhymes with "moon").

The romanization, Jong-un, will remain the same.

Information about North Korea's ruling family is scarce in the outside world, even in South Korea. The junior Kim, believed to be 25, is reportedly being groomed to succeed his father, Kim Jong-il, 67. His heir status has yet to be officially announced.

Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman for Seoul's Unification Ministry, said the government has made the Korean spelling change in all of its internal documents in September.

"We initially thought it was 'jeong-un' (in the Korean spelling), but it has been altered, based on intelligence information," Lee said.

Last month, the National Intelligence Service, Seoul's spy agency, reported to the National Assembly intelligence committee that it had acquired information that the heir's name should be spelled "jeong-eun," not "jeong-un," under Korean phonetic rules.

His Korean name also appeared in a North Korean propaganda poster that was posted on Yahoo's flickr.com by a Taiwanese photographer last month.

According to North Korea's romanization, which is based on the McCune-Reischauer system, the Korean phonetics of "eu" and "u" are identically represented as "u" in English. By the same system, "eo" and "o" are both represented as "o."

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