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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 195 (February 2, 2012)

All Headlines 10:48 February 02, 2012

*** NEWS IN BRIEF

N. Korean Leader Thanks Foreign Leaders for Condolence Messages

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean new leader Kim Jong-un has thanked the leaders of dozens of countries for sending him condolence messages over the recent death of his father Kim Jong-il, the North's state television said on Jan. 28.

The move is seen as the young leader's first official foray into the diplomatic arena since he took power following the Dec. 17 death of his father.

Kim Jong-un, believed to be in his late 20s, expressed his gratitude by sending written replies to the leaders of Russia, Cuba, Nepal, Mongolia, Bangladesh and dozens of other nations, said the North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station.

He also expressed his wish for bilateral ties between North Korea and the recipient nations to develop further, the TV station said. However, It did not say when the letters were sent.

China, North Korea's major ally and benefactor, was not included on the list of countries, spurring speculation that Kim Jong-un may have sent a private letter through the Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang or arranged other plans.

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North Korea Blasts Upcoming South Korea-U.S. Military Drills

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea lashed out at South Korea and the United States on Jan. 28, warning that their upcoming joint military exercises would push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.

South Korea and the U.S. plan to jointly stage major military maneuvers, called Key Resolve, from Feb. 27 to March 9, with about 200,000 South Korean and 2,100 U.S. troops participating.

Separately, the two allies plan to hold the Foal Eagle joint military exercise from March 1 to April 30. The Marines of two countries will also hold a joint landing exercise in March, the largest of its kind in 23 years.

South Korea and the U.S. regularly hold military exercises to bolster their readiness against a possible North Korean invasion. The socialist North has a track record of military provocations against South Korea.

Still, North Korea routinely denounces military drills in the South as rehearsals for a northward invasion.

"The Key Resolve is a nuclear war rehearsal for aggression" on the North, the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in a commentary. The North often releases its position on South Korea or the United States through its state media.

The commentary also claimed that "the exercises will deteriorate the critical inter-Korean relations and drive the tension of the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war."

Tensions still persist on the divided Korean Peninsula over the North's two deadly attacks on the South in 2010.

The commentary also warned that the North will "mercilessly punish those gangsters who rush into a house of mourning with a flaming torch of aggression," noting that North Koreans are still mourning the death last month of their leader Kim Jong-il.

About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty.

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N.K. Accuses U.S. of Seeking to Create Crisis on Korean Peninsula

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea accused the United States on Jan. 30 of seeking to create crisis and maintain tension on the Korean Peninsula in an attempt to keep the Asia-Pacific region under its control.

North Korea routinely denounces the U.S. over its policy on the divided peninsula as well as its regular joint military exercises with South Korea. The latest criticism came weeks after Washington unveiled a new defense strategy that called for a bigger role for U.S. troops in Asia despite a planned troop reduction due to budget constraints.

U.S. President Barack Obama stressed in earlier January that Washington's commitment to the Asia-Pacific region will not be affected, calling it a "critical region."

"The U.S. is trying to act as the emperor of the world" by dominating the Asia-Pacific region, the KCNA said in a commentary.

The commentary claimed the purpose of the U.S. defense strategy is to strengthen its military invasion and engagement in the region by fostering tension on the peninsula.

North Korea has frequently said U.S. joint military drills with South Korea are a rehearsal for a northward invasion, a claim rejected by both Seoul and Washington.

The U.S. has recently said it will maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula by effectively working with allies and other regional states to deter and defend against provocations from North Korea.

The North's commentary asserted that the U.S. is eventually seeking to keep the Asia-Pacific region under its control and maintain its global hegemony by applying military pressure on China, the growing military power in the region, the commentary said.

North Korea also blasted the U.S. for exaggerating threats from the North, claiming U.S. military adventurism poses a grave threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

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North Korea Revises Laws on Foreign Investment

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has revised and supplemented its laws on foreign investment, the country's state media said Jan. 30, in an apparent bid to draw more overseas resources into its weakened economy.

The laws relate to the labor conditions, financial management and accounting of foreign firms that invest in the communist country, the KCNA said, without elaborating on how they have been amended.

The North first enacted a foreign investment law in 1992 and subsequently revised it in 1999 and 2004.

The latest move comes as North Korea faces growing pressure to embrace economic reform to feed its population of 24 million. However, little progress has been reported on the country's ambitious project to develop a joint economic zone with China near their shared border, while the Pyongyang regime has maintained an iron grip on the people.

The revision also comes as the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last month left his heir and youngest son, Jong-un, to achieve the regime's stated goal of becoming a strong and prosperous country this year, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Jong-il's father and national founder Kim Il-sung.

In explaining the foreign investment law last March, the KCNA reported that North Korea encourages foreign investors to invest in the country and does not nationalize or confiscate invested assets.


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North Korea Praises Kim Jong-il's Economic Achievements

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has exalted the economic achievements by its late leader Kim Jong-il in a bid to prod its citizens to speed up the completion of several ongoing economic projects.

Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the ruling Workers' Party, said on Jan. 30 that the late leader completed many large-scale economic projects that required at least several decades for construction at an alarming clip in the 1970s.

The newspaper referred to many monuments and buildings in Pyongyang including the Tower of Juche (self-reliance) Idea as one of the late Kim's achievements.

Indicating the introduction of new battle against time, North Korea also proposed a term, "the Speed of Mallima," to prompt North Korean workers to attain the economic goal as soon as possible as the socialist country gives impetus to construct a powerful nation.

The term Mallima, which was coined by the North, means a horse which run 10 times as fast as Chollima, an imaginary horse with wings that runs at least 400 kilometers a day.

As early as 1956, North Korea started the Chollima Movement, an economic drive named for Chollima to rebuild its economy after the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea has been pushing several projects to make the country a powerful nation by the 100th anniversary of the birth of the North's founder Kim Il-sung, which falls on April 15.

The year 2012 is the year that North Korea set a target of becoming Kangsong Taeguk, which means a great country that is powerful ideologically, militarily and economically.

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Pyongyang Folk Park to Open on Kim Il-sung's Birthday

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is planning to open the Pyongyang Folk Park that has been under construction for more than three years in time for the birthday of the North's founder Kim Il-sung on April 15, a newspaper in Japan said on Jan. 30.

Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, said that the Pyongyang Folk Park will open on the occasion of the centenary of Kim Il-sung's birth in April, adding that the 90 percent of the construction of the park was completed as of the end of January.

The newspaper also said that the park construction was launched in December 2008 by the instruction of late leader Kim Jong-il.

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stressed that the park should be completed at the highest level on his visit to the construction site, his first inspection of the economic sector this year, the North's official news agency said on Jan. 13

The park, located at the foot of Mount Taesong in the suburbs of Pyongyang, will showcase miniatures of historic relics and structures built in recent decades, the KCNA said.

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N. Korea Offers to Hold Inter-Korean Event for June 15 Declaration

SEOUL (Yonhap)--North Korea proposed on Jan. 31 to increase joint activities between inter-Korean civic groups and hold a joint event to mark the 12th anniversary of the June 15 joint declaration and the fifth anniversary of the Oct. 4 declaration.

The two declarations were adopted during the two inter-Korean summits in June 2000 and October 2007.

The proposal came in an appeal adopted on Jan. 31 at the meeting in Pyongyang of the North's side committee for implementing the June 15 joint declaration to discuss issues of inter-Korean reunification.

The appeal to all the Koreans at home and abroad also calls for the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces stationed in South Korea, the abolishment of the National Security Law in the South and the May 24 sanctions against the North, the KCNA said.

In May 2010, the South imposed sanctions against the North suspending all kinds of inter-Korean exchanges except the Kaesong industrial complex in response to the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan in March 2010.

Earlier, the committees from the South and North reached an agreement to hold working-level talks in Shenyang, China, on Feb. 9 or Feb. 10 to discuss ways of resuming inter-Korean exchanges.

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N. Korean College Praises Merits of Electronic Banking System

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to be toying with the idea of introducing a capitalist banking system to its moribund closed economy, as a Pyongyang university raised the need for online banking in a recent research paper.

The paper published by the North's elite Kimilsung University in October said an Internet banking system could lower costs in managing banks and facilitate the development of banks through electronic payment methods.

It also said the new banking system could help foster the development of certification technology, a key requirement for safe and secure banking transactions.

"Banks must plan a strategy for the development of electronic banking," according to the thesis, a copy of which was obtained by Yonhap News Agency.

The thesis also mentioned credit cards, which were once criticized in the socialist country as being a symbol of capitalism. Three dozen stores accepted credit cards in Pyongyang as of 1995, the latest year for which figures were available, according to media reports.

The North is believed to have restricted the use of credit cards to top officials and foreigners in a country where legitimate private property is not recognized.

South Korean officials were not immediately available for comment on North Korea's banking system.

The North's move comes as Pyongyang is seeking to attract foreign investment to help improve its faltering economy.

The North has vowed to usher in a prosperous nation by April when the North will mark the centennial of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of its new leader.

"Establishment of an electronic banking system is key to attracting foreign investment and improving the financial system," said Cho Bong-hyun, a researcher at IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul.
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