*** FOREIGN TIPS
U.S. Sanctions Taiwanese Firm for Ties with North Korea
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government said on May 10 it has imposed sanctions on a Taiwanese firm and its CEO for their connection with North Korea's weapons proliferation activity.
The Treasury Department designated Trans Multi Mechanics Co. Ltd. and Chang Wen-Fu "for their links to a North Korean procurement agent, Alex H.T. Tsai," according to the department's press release.
Alex Tsai was designated by the Treasury Department in 2009 for providing support to North Korea's premier arms dealer, Korea Mining Development Trading Corp.
"It is essential that we continue to make it as difficult as possible for North Korea to facilitate its nuclear and ballistic missile programs by exposing key cogs in North Korea’s procurement network,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "We will continue to work with our partners in Federal law enforcement and our friends around the world to expose anyone assisting the North Korean government’s illicit procurement activities."
The Treasury said Chang Wen-Fu, CEO and general manager of Trans Multi Mechanics Co. Ltd., has been actively involved in the procurement of dual-use machinery for North Korea.
Alex Tsai has used the Taiwanese company to procure and ship hundreds of thousands of dollars’worth of equipment to North Korea and to negotiate contracts on behalf of North Korean parties, it added.
Int'l Hacking Group Claims to Have Attacked N. Korean Web Dites
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- An international hacking group that had previously claimed it hacked North Korean Web sites said on May 12 it launched more cyber attacks into about a dozen sites based in the communist state.
The group called "Anonymous" said on its Twitter account (@AnonyOpsKorea) that it successfully hacked the Web site for the North Korean radio station called "Voice of Korea (VOK)." Anonymous released the photo of the opening page of the Web site, with the "VOK" logo at the top right-hand corner and the word "Hacked" positioned at center.
Anonymous also said it targeted www.uriminzokkiri.com, the North's propaganda site, and the homepage for the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), but didn't say whether these attacks were successful.
The hacking group said Sunday's attacks were part of only a small operation and that they will launch a "very huge" operation on June 25, the anniversary of the Korean War.
In April, Anonymous released the list of some 9,000 subscribers to Uriminzokkiri, including about 2,000 members using e-mail addresses provided by South Korean portal sites, companies and newspapers.
Anonymous also claimed in April to have hacked into the network at Korea Exchange Bank (KEB) and released the list of people that it said were the bank's customers. KEB later rejected Anonymous' claim, saying the personal information on the hacking group's list didn't match details of its clients.
N. Korean Escapees to S. Korea to Fall 20 Pct This Year
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The number of North Korean escapees reaching South Korea will likely decrease by about 20 percent in 2013 from a year earlier, mainly due to improvements in the communist country's food supply, an official said on May 13.
The official at the Settlement Support Center for North Korean Refugees under the Ministry of Unification told reporters that as of early May, 556 North Korean nationals have safely arrived in South Korea.
"The total for the entire year is expected to reach 1,200, which is smaller than the 1,509 tallied for 2012," said the official, who declined to be identified.
He presumed that more food availability in the country is making it less likely for people to risk their lives to escape. The front-line official also claimed tighter control of the border region by Pyongyang is exerting influence on the overall number of people fleeing the country.
"Last year's floods were not so severe, resulting in less damages to crops, while Pyongyang's move to force more people into large public farm-related projects starting in 2011 seems to be affecting escapee numbers overall," he said.
The projected drop will mark another year that escapee numbers have fallen compared to the previous year. The number of North Korean escapees arriving in South Korea surpassed the 1,000 mark for the first time in 2001, and peaked at 2,929 in 2009 before falling steadily ever since.
The official also said that more severe penalties and tighter monitoring of border regions, particularly in the Hamgyong province region that had been the main conduit of escape in the past, may be affecting the outflow of people.
Meanwhile, he said that the number of North Korean escapees reaching Seoul within a year of fleeing the North has dropped significantly, while people who stayed in a third country for an extended period of time before reaching the South has increased sharply.
"At present, the number of people heading straight for South Korea make up 55 percent of the total, compared to 45 percent for those who have resided in another country for more than 5 years," he said.
He said the fact that latter numbers have risen can be a sign that less people have escaped in recent years.
N. Korea's Kaesong Region Sure to Be Listed as UNESCO World Heritage
SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Historic sites in North Korea's border city of Kaesong are almost certain to be added to the world heritage list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), according to the U.N. body's Web site on May 13.
The historic monuments and sites in the ancient North Korean tourist city of Kaesong were recommended for registration on the world heritage list by an advisory panel conducting on-site surveys of nominations for UNESCO.
UNESCO unveiled a report on the result of the surveys conducted by the Paris-based International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) ahead of the 37th World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from June 16-27.
The results of the non-governmental body's examinations of nominations have a decisive influence on the UNESCO's decision on new world heritage listings.
Pyongyang requested that the many monuments of the city be registered as a global heritage in mid-2012.
Kaesong was the capital of the Goryeo Dynasty that ruled the Korean Peninsula from 918 until 1392 when it was replaced by the Joseon Dynasty.
In 2004, North Korea added tombs of the ancient Korean kingdom of Koguryo (37 B.C.-668 A.D.) to the world heritage list.
The historic monuments and sites in Kaesong, when officially designated during the WHC session, will become the second world heritage listing for the North and the 12th on the Korean Peninsula.
The nominated property is located within the built-up area of Kaesong and extends into the foothills of the mountainous area to the west of the town, according to the ICOMOS report, available on UNESCO Web site.
They comprise 12 separate property components, including five separate sections of the Kaesong City Walls.
The report said the other seven are the Manwoldae Palace archaeological site and remains of the Kaesong Chomsongdae, an astronomical and meteorological observatory; the Kaesong Namdae Gate, the main southern city gate; Goryeo Songgyungwan, a former high state education institute where Koryo national officials were educated; Sungyang Sowon, a Confucian private school; Sonjuk Bridge and Phyochung Monuments, the latter being two commemorative steles; the Mausoleum of King Wang Geon, the founder of the Goryeo Dynasty, with seven associated tomb clusters and the Myongrung tomb cluster; and the Mausoleum of King Gongmin, the 318th king of Goryeo.
The monuments and sites "exhibit the synthesis of cultural, spiritual and political values of pre-existing states unified under the Goryeo and the interchange of such values with other neighboring states," the report said.
It also called them "an outstanding example of a capital city in transition from Buddhism to neo-Confucianism as a guiding philosophy for government."
U.S.: Tokyo's Outreach to Pyongyang in Broad Frame of Diplomacy
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government said on May 14 that Japan's latest outreach to North Korea is part of a "broad frame" of ongoing diplomacy with the socialist nation.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has dispatched one of his key advisers to Pyongyang.
Isao Iijima, special counselor in charge of crisis management in the Abe administration, flew into Pyongyang on Tuesday (local time), according to the North's state news agency, KNCA. It did not provide additional information.
The Japanese official's visit was kept secret until his arrival and it's unclear whether Tokyo had consultations with Washington and Seoul on the move. His itinerary and intent remain unknown, but could involve the abduction of Japanese nationals decades ago.
"I really don't have more information about his particular visit, but that's the broad frame in terms of engagement with the DPRK (North Korea)," Patrick Ventrell, deputy spokesman for the State Department, said at a press briefing.
He said diplomacy on North Korea is ongoing, in that the U.S. maintains close coordination with the other four nations involved in the now-suspended nuclear talks with Pyongyang. The four are South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Glyn Davies, the Obama administration's special representative for North Korea policy, is traveling to Northeast Asia. Speaking to reporters in Seoul, Davies said he had not heard about the Japanese official's trip to Pyongyang.
"So that will obviously be something that I will discuss with the Japanese when I have a chance to talk to my counterparts there," he said.
The envoy also plans to visit Beijing to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, and other officials.
"He's going to continue to make the same case that we've been making (to) the Chinese consistently, which is that they should continue to put pressure on the North Koreans to take a different course," Ventrell said.
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