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No signs of organized resistance in N. Korea: official

All Headlines 16:16 February 24, 2011

SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has not detected any signs of organized resistance in North Korea, although it believes that small-scale protests have sometimes occurred in the impoverished communist nation over economic woes, an official here said Thursday.

Some recent media reports, citing unidentified sources inside the North or defectors, have said North Koreans staged rare public demonstrations over food shortages, amid popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

"Although small-scale protests over livelihood have been reported since a botched currency reform, we have not observed any circumstances to be viewed as a collective demonstration there," said the official at the Unification Ministry in charge of relations with North Korea.

Responding to questions about whether the wave of pro-democracy upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Libya and elsewhere would affect North Korea, the official said, "I think there would be no big impact in the short term."

However, the official said South Korea is keeping a close eye on the situation in North Korea.

The North's failed currency reform in late 2009 worsened its chronic food shortage by promoting markets to close, reportedly sparking public unrest.

Despite growing economic pains, many analysts predicted that North Korea is not in any immediate danger of being influenced by the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa because few ordinary North Koreans know what's happening outside their country.

North Korea strictly controls the flow of information, and only elites are believed to have cell phones and access to the Internet.

Earlier this week, South Korean Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said he expects the North to take measures to prevent the Middle East turmoil from affecting its 24 million people.

"I think the core of the leadership knows of the situation and sees it. From that viewpoint, it will obviously make efforts to keep the regime from being negatively influenced," Hyun told Yonhap News Agency.
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