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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 231 (October 11, 2012)

All Headlines 10:33 October 11, 2012


N. Korean Vessels Violate Sea Border 338 Times in Last 10 Years

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean vessels have violated the western sea border with South Korea a total of 338 times over the last 10 years, a ruling party lawmaker said on Oct. 4, citing data from the military.

Between 2001 and September of this year, the North's patrol boats made 113 violations of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea while fishing boats were responsible for the remaining 225 intrusions, Rep. Chung Hee-soo of the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing an analysis of data provided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

However, the South's Navy only fired warning shots toward intruding vessels 13 times during that period, the lawmaker said, accusing the military of reacting too softly to such violations and calling for sterner responses.

Tensions around the sea border escalated in recent weeks as North Korean fishing boats made a series of violations, with the South's Navy firing a barrage of warning shots to chase North Korean boats away.

Areas near the border have been the scene of a number of bloody inter-Korean clashes. The two sides fought naval gun-battles in the area in 1999, 2002 and 2009. In 2010, the North torpedoed a South Korean warship in the area and shelled a South Korean border island.

North Korea has never recognized the maritime boundary, which was drawn unilaterally by the U.S.-led United Nations Command when the 1950-53 Korean War ended, and demands that the line be drawn further south.


S. Korea's NGO Aid Group Delivers 500 Tons of Flour to N. Korea

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- An alliance of non-governmental aid groups in South Korea was delivering 500 tons of flour to North Korea through a heavily-fortified land border on Oct. 5, the second of its kind since the North was heavily hit by late-summer typhoons and floods.

As part of the aid provision, 11 officials of the Korea NGO Council for Cooperation with North Korea, representing 51 private aid donors, crossed the land border in the morning to travel to Kaesong.

The officials are expected to monitor the distribution of 260 million won (US$234,150) worth of flour assistance intended for North Koreans beleaguered by the recent floods.

Hundreds of North Korean residents were reported to have been killed or gone missing in the wake of the typhoons and ensuing floods.

The NGO's aid assistance comes after another private charity group, World Vision, donated 500 tons of flour in relief aid late last month in South Korea's first relief activity since the recent natural disasters in the impoverished North this summer.

The North's acceptance of relief goods from South Korean private groups compares with its rejection of an aid proposal by the Seoul government.

Protesting the types and amounts of relief goods proposed by Seoul, Pyongyang refused to accept 10 billion won worth of flour, instant noodles and medicine in mid-September.

Since the incumbent conservative Lee Myung-bak administration came to power with a hard-line policy line toward the North, the socialist country has denounced the South government and refused to communicate with it.

Also earlier in the morning, four Buddhist priests and officials crossed the land border to hold discussions over holding a joint Buddhist ceremony with North Korean counterparts.

The Buddhists from the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the biggest Buddhist sect in the South, are to meet with officials from the North's alliance of Buddhist sects in Kaesong and discuss holding the North-South ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the completion of Singye Temple in the North.

The North Korean temple was completed following major joint South-North restoration works in 2007 after being destroyed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

They will also discuss the South Korean sect's plan to provide 200 tons of flour in relief aids, according to the sect.

Meanwhile, Seoul's Unification Ministry on Oct. 10 approved for two private South Korean aid groups to send aid goods to North Korean children.

The approvals were given to Kyeoresarang and the Green Tree Charity Foundation, both local aid groups with missions to assist underprivileged North Koreans, according to the ministry.

Kyeoresarang plans to ship 10 tons, or 78 million won (US$70,043) worth, of milk powder to orphans and handicapped people in the North via China, while Green Tree plans to provide 225 million won worth of aid equipment for the disabled as well as blankets and other goods through the land border, it said.


S. Korea Should Stick to 'Principle' in N. K. Policies: Minister

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea should not be swayed by demands from North Korea in its policies dealing with the socialist neighbor, the unification minister said on Oct. 8, underlining the principle of denuclearization and prevention of any provocations by Pyongyang.

"I think that (the government) should not pursue policies that unilaterally accept demands by the North," Yu Woo-ik told a parliamentary inspection. "We have to stick to the current principle of achieving denuclearization, preventing provocations and encouraging (the North) to take care of its people."

Yu added that the government also has to push for change in the North by sternly dealing with any provocations and at the same time considering offering help from a humanitarian perspective.

The remarks came in response to a question asking what policy direction the next government should take in dealing with North Korea. The next government will be inaugurated early next year after the presidential election in December.

Inter-Korean relations have soured since the current Lee Myung-bak government came into office in 2008 as it took a relatively tougher stance on Pyongyang than those of previous governments.

Answering a question on why North Korea policies pursued by previous and current governments failed to produce intended results, Yu said that the reason is because the North did not recognize the South as its legitimate negotiating partner.


S. Korea's Aid to N. Korea Dives under President Lee Administration

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- South Korea's aid for North Korea has nosedived during Lee Myung-bak's presidency as inter-Korean relations chilled due to the North's repeated military provocations, a Unification Ministry report showed on Oct. 8.

South Korea's government and private sector aid for the North amounted to 239 billion won (US$215.1 million) between early 2008, when Lee took office, and August of this year, the report submitted to the National Assembly showed.

The figure accounted for only 25.6 percent of the average aid assistance given during the two previous presidencies held by Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, who both maintained engagement policies toward the socialist North.

Under the 1998-2003 Kim administration, a total of 599 billion won in aid to the North was granted, with the Roh government doling out nearly 1.3 trillion won, according to the report.

The dive in aid provision to the North reflects the chill in inter-Korean relations, which dropped to their lowest in decades following the North's deadly sinking of a South Korean Navy ship in 2010 and its deadly shelling of a border island in the Yellow Sea the same year.


South Korean Military Defines Pro-North Korean Forces as 'Enemy'

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The defense ministry said on Oct. 10 it has defined pro-North Korean groups in South Korea as "enemies" in its education guideline for service members.

The guideline, submitted to an opposition lawmaker, said those who "recklessly follow North Korea's policy aimed at threatening the national security of the Republic of Korea" are "enemy benefiting forces." The Republic of Korea is South Korea's official name.

The ministry singled out nine pro-North Korean civic and student groups as "anti-state organizations," citing a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that defined North Korea as an "anti-state entity seeking to build a communist society in the South." The guideline states, "They are clearly the enemy of the (South Korean) military."

It is the first time the South Korean defense ministry has officially made such materials on pro-North Korea forces, with the approval of the defense minister. The defense ministry ordered troops to use the materials for security education in boot camps, combat units and military education organizations.

The latest move came after the ministry banned field units from producing unauthorized educational releases for use at security awareness sessions for service members, after some such materials were accused of having a political bias.

"The materials were aimed at maintaining consistency in security awareness education for all troops and to prevent the arbitrary production of such materials," a ministry official said.

The 18-page guideline said pro-North Korea forces deny South Korea's history and national identity and attempt to emasculate the powers of the government by confusing terms and agitating society.

"Masking their true nature, they mastermind or lead demonstrations from behind the scenes," the guideline said, describing such groups as a "malicious virus."

Some left-wing forces call for the 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea to leave the country and for the abolishment of the National Security Law, which prohibits citizens from sympathizing with Pyongyang. Some liberal activists have been jailed for traveling to the North without government approval or possessing materials that praise the Pyongyang regime, as prohibited by law.

Rep. Jin Sung-joon of the main opposition Democratic United Party urged the military to pay attention to maintaining political balance when using the materials in education for service members.

"Pro-North Korea forces and liberal groups should be differentiated," Jin said in a statement. "When the troops educate (soldiers), they should not include politically controversial contents."

In South Korea, a country that is still technically at war with the North as a legacy of 1950-53 Korean War, the stance on the communist neighbor and its regime often defines the identity of political parties and civic groups and sparks hot debates between presidential candidates in campaigns.

South Korea will elect a new president in December as President Lee Myung-bak is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election after his five-year term ends in February of next year.

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