*** NEWS IN BRIEF
N. Korea Steps up Bashing Campaign against S. Korean President
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea intensified its campaign against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on March 8, with state TV showing footage of citizens firing on a paper target overlapped with the image of a man under Lee's name.
North Korea has sharply escalated its criticism of the Lee administration following a media report that a South Korean military unit put up a hostile slogan against new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his late father Kim Jong-il in its barracks.
State media have been sending a wave of articles full of abusive language and hatred of Lee and other top officials, with the Rodong Sinmun newspaper even calling Lee a "deranged dog" in an article earlier this week. The regime has also organized massive public rallies against the South.
On March 8, North Korean TV showed members of a women's organization under the ruling Workers' Party and athletes of a sports shooting team firing pistols and rifles at a paper target with the chest-up drawing of a dressed-up man and Lee's name hand-written on it.
Footage also showed them chanting anti-Lee slogans.
The socialist country usually bristles strongly at any criticism of its leader. But analysts say the North's recent hysterical reaction to the anti-Kim slogan in the South Korean barracks is primarily aimed at solidifying internal unity under the new leader believed to be in his late 20s.
N.K. Orchestra Arrives in Paris for Joint Concert with French Orchestra
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A North Korean orchestra arrived in Paris on March 9 for a joint concert next week with a French orchestra led by renowned South Korean conductor Chung Myung-whun, according to Pyongyang's news outlet.
The Unhasu Orchestra's arrival came three days before it plans to hold the concert with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra on March 14. Chung, who set up the concert during a visit to Pyongyang in September, will direct the performance.
The KCNA said in a brief dispatch that the Unhasu Orchestra was greeted at an airport in Paris by Radio France officials and North Korean diplomats stationed in the French capital.
North Korean Delegation Heads for New York for Photo Exhibition
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A group of North Korean journalists left for the United States on March 10 to attend a photo exhibition set to open next week, marking the centenary of the birth of the North's late founding leader, Kim Il-sung, the country's media said.
The North's delegation, led by Kim Chang-gwang, vice director of the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), will attend the opening ceremony of the photo exhibition scheduled for March 15, the news agency said in a report.
The photo exhibition, to be jointly organized with The Associated Press, is scheduled to run until April 13, two days before the late leader's 100th birthday, the American news agency said in its Web site.
Kim Il-sung, who founded North Korea in 1948 with the backing of the old Soviet Union, died in 1994. He is still revered as a national hero in the isolated socialist country.
The photo exhibition is part of joint programs being pushed by the KCNA to promote its nascent relations with the U.S. news agency. The AP opened a bureau in Pyongyang in January, the first international news agency with a full-time presence in the reclusive country to dispatch texts, photos and video.
The KCNA said the New York exhibition will showcase photos archived by two news agencies, including the North's late founding leader and his deceased son Kim Jong-il who died of heart failure in December last year, as well as people and life in the communist state.
The U.S. and North Korea, who fought against each other in the 1950-53 Korean War, have no diplomatic relations. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.
N. Korean Leader Kim Jong-un Inspects Navy Units in Yellow Sea
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected navy units guarding its western coastal regions, the North's media said on March 10, as the communist country continued to ratchet up hostile rhetoric against South Korea.
Accompanied by several military commanders, Kim toured a navy defense unit on Cho Islet off its west coast and another onshore naval unit, the KCNA said in an English report, monitored in Seoul.
"Saying that Cho Islet is a gate to the West Sea and Pyongyang is behind the islet, he instructed the service personnel of the defense unit to consolidate the combat positions as firm as a rock," the report said.
Kim's military inspection came days after South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin made a rare trip to Yeonpyeong Island to vow launch powerful retaliation against North Korea if provoked again amid a spate of militaristic rhetoric by Pyongyang.
The North shelled the frontline island of Yeonypyeong in November 2010, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.
The young leader, believed to be in his late 20s, has toured the heavily armed border with the South and a visited a number of military units, apparently seen as efforts to seek to bolster support.
"He instructed the service personnel to step up combat preparations, always aware that their positions allow no retreat and there is no place to retreat even an inch there, and thus mercilessly wipe out the aggressors should they come in attack," the KCNA said.
The latest remark also came a day after South Korea and United States forces wrapped up their 12-day joint annual military exercise, called the Key Resolve.
North Korea made war threats before and during the exercise in February, accusing the South and the U.S. of preparing for a northward invasion, though no actual attack has occured.
Seoul and Washington say their exercises are routine and defensive in nature.
The two Koreas remain technically at war with each other since their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.
N. Korea Names Ri Jong-guk as Minister of Machine-Building Industry
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently appointed Ri Jong-guk, a member of the Supreme People's Assembly, as minister of Machine-Building Industry, according to the North's media reports.
His appointment was confirmed as Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), introduced him on March 11 as minister of Machine-Building Industry in its report on a ceremony to mark an economic campaign.
The office of minister of Machine-Building Industry had formerly been held by Vice Premier Jo Byong-ju.
Ri served as bureau chief of Metal and Machine-Building Industry Ministry, the predecessor of Machine-Building Industry Ministry, in December 1999. He was elected as member of the SPA in 2003 and 2009 for the second time in a row.
North Korea consolidated the Ministry of Metals Industry and Ministry of Machine-Building Industry into the Metal and Machine-Building Industry Ministry in September 1999, but separated it again into the Ministry of Metals Industry and Ministry of Machine-Building Industry in May 2005.
North Korea Bashes Seoul for Internationalizing Defector Issue
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The North Korean foreign ministry denounced South Korea for raising the issue of its defectors on the international arena, the North's media said on March 13.
The spokesman for the North's foreign ministry accused the Lee Myung-bak administration of pursuing a "foolish bid to internationalize national showdown" by calling on other countries and the United Nations to get involved in the defector issue, according to an interview carried by the KCNA.
The issue of North Korean defectors fleeing their totalitarian and hunger-stricken nation has become a hot topic in South Korea following press reports that about 30 North Koreans have been forcefully repatriated or face deportation after being arrested by Chinese authorities.
Tens of thousands of North Korean defectors are believed to be hiding in China, hoping to travel to Thailand or other Southeast Asian countries before resettling in South Korea, home to more than 23,000 defectors from the communist country.
But as Pyongyang's key ally, China has detained dozens of such defectors and reportedly sent some of them back to the North, where they could face harsh punishment, as Beijing considers them "economic migrants," not refugees.
Earlier in the day, Marzuki Darusman, special U.N. rapporteur on North Korean human rights, reiterated at a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council his deep concern over the safety and protection of the fleeing North Koreans, and called on all states to adhere to their obligation of providing international protection to asylum-seekers.
At the U.N. session, even a brief physical clash broke out between a North Korean diplomat and South Korean lawmakers, after So Se-pyong, the North's ambassador to its mission in Geneva, flatly denied a U.N. report on Pyongyang's human rights record.
The North's foreign ministry spokesman said South Korea pursued a "psychological campaign" against it "for a political reason," lambasting Seoul for "curbing the atmosphere for friendship, cooperation, dialogue, and improvement of relations in the region and repeating the evil cycle of confrontation and conflicts," according to the KCNA.
N. Korean Journalists Condemn S. Korea Media over Alleged Slander
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's journalist union criticized the South Korean media and government on March 13 for allegedly slandering the socialist country.
North Korea's Journalist Union claimed the South Korean government is working hard to mislead public opinion on Pyongyang's threat of retaliation through the South Korean conservative media.
South Korean journalists are "speaking for the confrontation fanatics after being bribed by a handful of traitors" including South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the Central Committee of the Journalist Union said in a statement.
The North, which has a track record of provocation, has repeatedly threatened to launch a "sacred" war against South Korea in recent weeks over Seoul's defamation of the dignity of the North's new leader Kim Jong-un and his late father, Kim Jong-il.
A South Korean military unit in Incheon, a port west of Seoul, has posted photos of the two Kims inside a barrack with accompanying text that translates as, "Let's beat Kim Jong-il to death! Let's strike Kim Jong-un to death!"
Citing analysts, South Korean media reported that the North's recent strong reaction to the anti-Kim slogan in the South Korean barrack is primarily aimed at solidifying internal unity under the new leader believed to be in his late 20s.
The North's union condemned the smear campaign by the South Korean government and media "as the most monstrous unethical crimes which can be committed only by animals in human skin and the most hideous barbarous acts," according to an English-language statement carried by the KCNA.
"The war for taking revenge upon the enemies a thousand times and precision retaliatory blows of our own style will shatter the despicable trumpets of the group of traitors to pieces at a single strike," the statement said.
Separately, a North Korean military officer, Ri Chang-su, warned that North Korea will not remain an onlooker in South Korea's confrontation with the North.
"They are greatly mistaken if they think they can survive our retaliatory sacred war," the KCNA said in a separate dispatch.
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