*** NEWS IN BRIEF
N. Korea Suggests Rejecting S. Korea's Offer for Talks
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea indicated on Feb. 9 it would reject South Korea's offer to hold a meeting to discuss joint pest control near ancient tombs in the isolated country.
South Korea "has permanently lost qualifications to talk about the improvement of North-South relations," the North Korean Website Uriminzokkiri said, in an apparent anger over Seoul's negligent attitude toward the death of its leader Kim Jong-il in December.
The move came two days after South Korea proposed holding working-level talks with North Korea later February to discuss how to eradicate pests in forests near the ancient tombs, which also have historical significance to South Korea.
The Complex of Koguryo tombs, located in the North's cities of Pyongyang and Nampho, consists of 30 individual tombs from the late period of the Koguryo Kingdom, which controlled the northern half of the Korean Peninsula and northeastern China for more than 700 years until 668 A.D.
The relics, along with murals inside the tombs, became the first UNESCO World Heritage site in the socialist North in 2004, in recognition of their historical and aesthetic value.
On Feb. 8, the North told the South through a channel at their border village of Panmunjom that it has not received a reply from Pyongyang, according to South Korea. The North often releases its position through its state-run media outlets.
Uriminzokkiri also accused South Korea of banning its political activists from meeting with their North Korean counterparts in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.
The activists are members of a private umbrella organization that has called for implementation of the accord of the first inter-Korean summit in 2000.
North Korea Revises Three Laws on Attracting Foreign Investment
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea recently revised three laws on foreign investment in a bid to attract more overseas funds, the North's news outlet said on Feb. 10.
The announcement followed news the socialist country revised and supplemented two other laws on foreign investment enterprises in January.
The (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Feb. 10 that laws on the registration, taxation and bankruptcy procedures of foreign investment enterprises were recently amended.
According to the KCNA, the law on registration is comprised of 34 articles in six chapters, which cover registration as it relates to the foundation, residence, taxation and customs of foreign investment enterprises. The KCNA did not elaborate further on details of the revised law.
Earlier, on Feb. 9, the KCNA reported the revision of a law on foreign investment banks, which consists of 32 articles in five chapters and deals with the classification, residence, property rights and independent management of foreign investment banks.
The law stipulates that banks with 10 or more years of banking activity are exempt from paying income tax on first-year profits, while business taxes are not levied on interest receipts from loans made to local banks and businesses in their favor, the KCNA said.
In January, North Korea amended its law on labor in foreign investment enterprises and the law on financial management of foreign investment enterprises.
N. Korea blasts S. Korean speculation on inter-Korean talks
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's state-controlled media on Feb. 13 blasted speculation by South Korea's unification minister that inter-Korean talks may resume in mid-April.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said comments made by Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik to South Korean lawmakers on Feb. 10 were presumptuous and a blatant provocation intended to hold Pyongyang responsible for the breakdown in cross-border relations.
Yu said he believed the North is postponing a decision to restart inter-Korean talks because of the lingering instability of new leader Kim Jon-un's inherited rule, a lawmaker who attended the meeting said.
No governmental talks between the two Koreas have been held since a military-level meeting in February 2011 to discuss the March 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship and a November 2010 artillery attack on a South Korean border island.
The KCNA, meanwhile, reiterated that the North does not want any dealing with the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration and called on Seoul to respond to nine open questionnaires.
The questions raised include calling on Seoul to repent for halting inter-Korean dialogue, apologize for the disrespect showed in response to the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and pledge to uphold the June 15 joint declaration signed by progressive South Korean President Kim Dae-jung in 2000.
Seoul said the questions raised by the North did not even merit a response.
North Korean Officials Pledge Allegiance to New Leader
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean officials swore loyalty to their new leader Kim Jong-un in a rally, the country's television reported on Feb. 13, in the latest public display of support for his dynastic power succession.
Kim became the supreme commander of the country's 1.1 million-strong military soon after the December death of his father, Kim Jong-il. The young leader is believed to be consolidating his power.
Ri Yong-ho, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army, vowed to safeguard supreme leader Kim Jong-un in the rally, according to the North's official Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station.
The rally was held on Mount Paektu, which Pyongyang claims is the sacred birthplace of Kim Jong-il. However, historians and foreign officials say he was born in Russia.
The latest rally was held ahead of the late Kim's Feb. 16 birthday. The North has said the birthday will be instituted as the "Day of the Shining Star."
N. Korea Calls New Leader's Mother Ko "Mother of Pyongyang"
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has called its new leader Kim Jong-un's mother Ko Yong-hui the "mother of Pyongyang," as the country reinforces Kim Jong-un's personality cult on the 70th birthday of Kim Jong-il, which falls on Feb. 16.
The expression came in an epic poem praising late leader Kim Jong-il written by a sub-committee of the Writers Union of (North) Korea.
The poem, under the title "Comrade Kim Jong-il, the Eternal Sun of Songun," was released on Feb. 13 by Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling Workers' Party newspaper. Songun refers to the military-first ruling philosophy of the late leader.
According to the newspaper, the poem referred to Ko as "mother of Pyongyang," while describing her as awaiting her husband Kim Jong-il with her son Jong-un until late at night.
Earlier on Jan. 8, Ko was referred to as "mother" in a documentary shown by the North's state-controlled Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, which had idolized her son Kim Jong-un.
North Korea had attempted to idolize the young leader's mother since 2002, calling her "respected mother," in a move to enthrone one of her sons in the post of successor-designate for late leader Kim Jong-il. But it reportedly stopped under the late leader's orders after Ko's death in 2004.
"For North Korea to refer to Ko as 'mother of Pyongyang' can be seen as the North's attempt to move forward in the propaganda campaign for the personality cult of new leader Kim Jong-un," a North Korean defector said.
North Korea watchers also say that Ko Yong-hui's background as a Korean Japanese makes it hard for the North to show off her status and career, prompting them to idolize her with vague words.
According to the South's spy agency, the National Intelligence Service, said that Ko is a daughter of an ethnic Korean in Japan.
Minister Ryu Yong-sop Named as Chief of Party Chapter in Jagang
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Minister of Posts and Telecommunications Ryu Yong-sop has been appointed chief secretary of the party chapter in Jagang Province bordering China, replacing Ju Yong-sik.
Ryu's appointment was confirmed Feb. 13 when the (North) Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KCBS) introduced him as "chief secretary of the Jagang Provincial Party Committee" in a report.
Ju Yong-sik held the post since September 28, 2010, when the conference of representatives of the (North) Workers' Party was held.
The new chief secretary, who served as minister of posts and telecommunications since July 2005, has also served as a member of the party's Central Committee and a representative of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly.
According to another report by the North's media, Ryu Yong-sop was replaced by Sim Chol-ho, who served as vice minister of Posts and Telecommunications between 1999 and 2006.
Sim was demoted to a bureau chief in the ministry in 2006 but reinstated as a vice minister in 2009. He also worked as a member of the Central Auditing Committee of the Workers' Party since September 2010.
Sim's appointment was revealed on Feb. 9 as the KCNA introduced him as minister of Posts and Telecommunications in its report on the opening of a stamp exhibition to mark the birthday of the late Kim Jong-il.
Sim is the son of Sim Chang-wan, a former chief of the political bureau of the Public Security Ministry who died in 1981 and was reported to have played a key role in helping the late Kim Jong-il be designated as successor to the North's founder Kim Il-sung.
Sim was included in the 232-person committee that organized the funeral of Kim Jong-il in December of last year, which is considered crucial data to show the power hierarchies in the North after the former leader's death.
Navigation Services for Mobile Phones Launched in North Korea.
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Navigation services for mobile phones have been launched in North Korea and have gained popularity with Pyongyang citizens, a pro-North Korean newspaper in Japan said on Feb. 14.
A dedicated navigation software program for mobile phones developed by the Ministry of Electronics Industry is very popular with Pyongyang citizens including drivers, Choson Sinbo said.
The program offers turn-by-turn directions, bus service routes in Pyongyang, road maps of the city and distance measurements, the newspaper said.
In particular, the ministry has developed a program for mobile phones that provides directions to hot-spring resorts, mineral-water springs and other scenic spots, it said.
The article said other software programs for mobile phones include cooking advice and household book-keeping.
Quoting a regulatory filing issued Orascom, the Egyptian telecom that provides service to North Korea, Bloomberg said Feb. 3 that more than 1 million North Koreans are subscribed to mobile phone services.
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