*** NEWS IN BRIEF
N. Korean Rhetoric Triggers Speculation over Next Leader
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Is it a toast to the future of North Korea, or to that of a veiled 27-year-old man who outsiders believe will succeed the omnipotent leader of Asia's only communist dynasty?
Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party, on Jan. 8 released an editorial that summarized its typically rhetorical spirit by proposing a toast to the future of the state.
The oratory came as the world scrutinized the secretive country for signs that may indicate that a celebration is underway for the birthday of Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of leader Kim Jong-il, who rules the country with an iron fist and nuclear ambitions.
"Toast, toast to the endlessly bright future of Choson (North Korea) that will resemble the shape of the sun and the holy land of Paektu," the editorial said.
Paektu, the highest mountain on the Korean Peninsula, is mentioned in the North Korean press to signify the lineage of Kim Jong-il, who inherited his power from Kim Il-sung, the country's founder, who died in 1994.
Following a reported stroke that kept him from appearing in public for months in 2008, Kim Jong-il bolstered his efforts to transfer his power to his third son, South Korean officials believe.
But only slim details have emerged about Jong-un, who reportedly attended a school in Europe and out of Kims three sons, is said to resemble his father the most in both personality and appearance.
Daily NK, a South Korean media outlet that focuses on North Korea news, reported on the same day that the North declared a national holiday on Jan. 8 to honor Jong-un's birthday.
Kim Jong-il Vows to Deliver on His Father's Teachings
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Admitting having failed to carry out his father's teachings, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has expressed his resolve to prioritize this year's policy of raising the country's living standards, the North's official Web site said on Jan. 9.
According to Uriminzokkiri, Rodong Sinmun, the publication of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, reported that Kim had made the remark during a field guidance tour to an undisclosed site last year.
"In terms of politics, North Korea has earned a status as a strong nation, but not a few aspects of the people's lives need to be bettered," Kim was quoted as saying. "And we have not fulfilled the Yuhun (teachings left behind) of the president (Kim Il-sung)."
Kim Il-sung, the North's founding father who died on July 8, 1994, is known to have left a wish that "the North Korean people should be able to eat boiled rice and meat soup heartily, wear silk clothes and live in tile-roofed houses."
"I am determined to deliver on the Yuhun by solving the problem of the people's living as early as possible and enable them to live comfortably without feeling enviable of others," the North Korean leader was quoted as stressing.
Rodong Sinmun also said the North Korean leader's visits to several industrial sites in 2009 were parts of his efforts to improve the living standard of North Koreans.
North Korea is widely believed to be unable to feed its population of 24 million due to chronic food shortages and economic hardships stemming from international sanctions on the communist country. On Nov. 30, the North conducted a surprise currency reform in an apparent bid to crack down on burgeoning free markets and keep runaway inflation in check.
In a separate editorial, Rodong Sinmun appealed to the North Korean people to accelerate the development of the light industry and agriculture. In the joint New Year editorial, North Korea declared it will step up efforts to further develop the light industry and agriculture in order to better the lives of its people.
N. Korea Voices Concern over Relations with S. Korea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Painting a gloomy picture of inter-Korean relations, North Korea's official newspaper reported on Jan. 9 that South Korea is likely set for collision course with the North this year.
"We harbor worries that the South Korean authorities will race to the path of confrontation this year because it doesn't want improved inter-Korean relations," said Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the North's ruling Workers' Party.
The report came in response to an earlier assessment by South Korea's Unification Ministry that Seoul "sought to stick to principles" in terms of its relationship with the socialist North in 2009.
In order to open up the road for improved inter-Korean relations, the newspaper stressed, it is necessary to respect the spirit of June 15 Joint Declaration and the Oct. 4 Declaration, or great programs for independent reunification of the divided peninsular.
"It is preposterous to talk about 'dialogue' and 'cooperation' while denying inter-Korean declarations," Rodong Sinmun said. The declarations were produced at the inter-Korean summits of 2000 and 2007, respectively.
In a Jan. 9 commentary, Minju Joson, the organ of the North's cabinet, also said North Korea has a firm stance that inter-Korean relations should be improved on the basis of the two joint declarations.
N. Korean Leader Continues Tours to Industrial Sites
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-il recently provided a series of New Year field guidance tours to industrial sites in an effort to show his will to focus this year on tiding over the country's economic crisis, according to the North's official media.
The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), monitored in Seoul, said on Jan. 7 that Kim provided field guidance to the construction sites of Ryesong River Youth Power Station No. 2 in North Hwanghae Province that has reached the phase of completion.
"He underscored the need to ensure the best quality in the construction so that Ryesong River Youth Power Station No. 2 may remain impeccable even in the distant future as it is the nation's precious treasure to be handed over to posterity," it said.
The KCNA reported on Jan. 11 that the North Korean leader gave on-the-spot guidance to the Kangdong Weak-current Apparatus Factory wonderfully renewed to meet the requirement of the era of Songun (military-first).
"This is a striking demonstration of the validity and vitality of the policy of holding on to science and technology as lifeline in building an economic power," Kim was quoted as saying.
In a Jan. 13 dispatch, the news agency said Kim provided field guidance to the pig farm built by Large Combined Unit 313 of the (North) Korean People's Army. As is customary, the KCNA failed to disclose the date and location of his tour.
Earlier on Jan. 4 the KCNA reported Kim had inspected the Huichon Power Station in Jagang Province, his first public activity this year, before giving field guidance to the Jaeryong Mine in South Hwanghae Province.
Kim's recent visits to the industrial sites are viewed as showing his strong resolve to rescustitate the North Korean economy, which is believed to be on the brink of collapse due to internal problems and international sanctions.
Newspaper Stresses Use of 'Pyongyang Cultural Language'
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Koreans should refrain from using foreign words in their daily lives in order to preserve the purity of the (North) Korean language and further promote nationality, Pyongyang's official newspaper said on Jan. 10.
"One important aspect of the people's everyday life is to speak our intrinsic 'Pyongyang cultural language,' whose rich expressions make it possible to evince complex ideas and feelings," Rodong Sinmun was quoted as reporting by Uriminzokkiri, the North's official Web site.
The so-called Pyongyang cultural language refers to the North's standard language spoken in the socialist country's capital of Pyongyang.
"If people use unnecessary foreign words instead of our mother tongue, it is impossible to ward off the imperialists' ideological and cultural maneuvers to spread the capitalist lifestyle," the newspaper said.
To speak and write in Pyongyang cultural language is not just a practical matter, but an important undertaking to protect the integrity of the national language and keep intact the national identity in every aspect of social life, it said.
After kicking off a program to substitute Chinese and Japanese words for its own terms in 1996, North Korea has coined about 50,000 new words to replace borrowings and urged its citizens to use them.
Amid a rapid spread of South Korean TV shows and movies in North Korea, Pyongyang is reportedly ratcheting up efforts to keep its people from imitating the accent of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and using foreign words spoken in the capitalist South.
N. Korea Demands S. Korea Punish Those Sending Propaganda Leaflets
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged South Korea on Jan. 13 to punish those who are involved in the flying of propaganda leaflets across their heavily armed border, officially raising the issue for the first time in more than 14 months.
The warning, issued by the head of the North Korean delegation to working-level military talks with the South, comes as the divided countries have announced their will to improve ties.
"Our military will not tolerate even a bit" the balloon leafleting campaign by South Korean activists that criticizes North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-il, the statement said, carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The South Korean government says it does not condone the campaign, but also says it cannot stop the activists from sending the leaflets because their freedom of speech must be respected.
The North Korean warning, which stated that "hundreds of thousands" of leaflets were flown across the border on Jan. 1 this year, was delivered to the South Korean military, the KCNA reported. North Korea last made demands that the activist groups be stopped during military talks with the South in October 2008.
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