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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 268 (June 27, 2013)

All Headlines 10:43 June 27, 2013

*** NEWS IN BRIEF

Repatriated Defectors Make Appearance on N. Korean TV

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Nine young North Koreans who were forced to return home after being arrested in Laos for illegal entry appeared on North Korean television on June 21, claiming that they were kidnapped to defect to South Korea.

The North Koreans, ages between 15-23, were rounded up in Laos on May 10. On May 27, they were expelled to China, where they were subsequently deported to their home country.

The youngsters, neatly dressed and wearing lapel pins of the North's founding leader Kim Il-sung and his son, Kim Jong-il, explained how they ended up in Laos and their reported journey back home.

Their accounts of the episode were contrary to what have been reported by South Korean and other international human rights activists who helped them in the escape from the North.

During the 26-minute talk show, the youngsters claimed that during several months of their stay in China, they lived in hiding in an apartment arranged by a South Korean Christian missionary who they claimed "hurt" them.

However, they gave no details of the hardship they claimed they had gone through at the apartment.

At the end of the talk show, they, standing stiffly at attention, sang a song pledging loyalty to North Korea's current leader Kim Jong-un.

Meanwhile, North Korean watchers in Seoul said that judging by the fact that there was no hesitation or slip of the tongue throughout the interview, they may have been trained well by their handlers after they were brought back to Pyongyang on May 28.

About 25,000 North Koreans have so far defected to South Korea mostly through China, since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Southeast Asian countries have recently emerged as a major transit point for those would-be North Korean defectors.

The two Koreas are technically at war, with no peace treaty signed at the end of the Korean conflict.

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North Korean Leader Inspects Munitions Factory

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected a munitions factory in the northeastern North Korean province of Jagang, the country's state media said on June 22.

According to the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report monitored in Seoul, Kim "gave field guidance to the Kanggye General Tractor Plant," without specifying the date of the visit.

"He recalled that Kim Jong-il regarded the plant as important and showed particular loving care for it in his lifetime," the KCNA said in an English-dispatch.

The factory, built in 1949, had been previously inspected dozens of times by the socialist nation's late leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the KCNA said.

Jangang is home to many munitions factories in North Korea, with some saying that 80 percent of the area's residents work at those factories.

The young leader was accompanied on the visit by high-ranking military officials including Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the KCNA added.

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Kim Kye-gwan Returns Home after Visit to China

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea's First-vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan returned home on June 22, the North's state media reported, following a trip to China that raised hopes for a possible resumption of six-party talks aimed at ending the North's nuclear programs.

Kim Kye-gwan and his party returned home after visiting China, the North's official KCNA said in a brief report, monitored in Seoul.

The report gave no further details except to say that he met in Beijing with Yang Jiechi, state councilor of China, and Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister, respectively on June 21.

Kim's trip sparked new hopes for resumption of the six-way talks as he noted that denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula was a dying wish of the North's late leaders -- Kim Il-sung and his son Jong-il.

The six-party forum has been suspended for over four years amid high military tensions on the Korean peninsula exacerbated by the North's rocket launch in December and its third nuclear test in February. The talks involve both South and North Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Kim's trip to China came shortly after Pyongyang proposed high-level talks with the United States and ahead of a scheduled summit meeting in Beijing between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month.

The U.S. has rejected the North's offer for high-level talks, urging the socialist country to show by action, not words, its sincerity toward denuclearization.

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N. Korea Blames U.S. for Worsening Conditions on Korean Peninsula

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea on June 23 stepped up its efforts to blame the United States for what it perceives as worsening conditions on the Korean Peninsula.

In an article carried by Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of (North) Korea, the North accused Washington of starting the 1950-53 Korean War and called the superpower a "criminal" for discarding the Armistice Agreement that halted the conflict. It also said Washington is the "real culprit" behind the current nuclear crisis.

The daily, which effectively reflects the views of the socialist country's leadership, claimed that the joint military exercises carried out around the Korean Peninsula by South Korea, the United States and Japan are all aimed at waging war against Pyongyang. It said Washington's hostile policy stance against the North is the root cause behind peace and stability being threatened in the region.

It added that while the communist country recently proposed high-level talks with the United States to resolve outstanding differences, Washington has only responded by calling on the North to first show its resolve on denuclearization and halt provocations.

The paper, monitored in Seoul, said such claims were gibberish and made no sense whatsoever.

It pointed out that Pyongyang's goal for denuclearization is not limited to the country giving up its nuclear deterrence but striving for the denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula that includes South Korea.

"The denuclearization we seek is the end once and for all of the nuclear threat posed by the United States," Rodong Sinmun stressed.

It, meanwhile, pointed out that the United States is moving to sell US$800 million worth of weapons to South Korea and argued that if Washington wants peace and stability, it needs to give up tactics that try to intimidate its foes, fuel an arms race and stir concerns of war.

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N. Korea to Offer Max 50 Years Lease on Land in Economic Development Zones

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea will offer a maximum 50 year lease on land for the economic development zones it wants to set up across the country to spur outside investment, an analysis of a propaganda magazine monitored in Seoul showed on June 23.

Close examination of the May 29 edition of the Tongil Sinbo, a weekly magazine that highlights activities taking place in the isolationist country, revealed the lease system.

The 50-year scheme for development zones is on par with land lease favors offered by Pyongyang to businesses operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Rason Economic and Trade Zone. The plan can offer assurances to investors, which can be a critical incentive.

Kaesong is on the west coast just north of the demilitarized zone, while Rason is located in the country's northeastern region near the border with China and Russia.

In addition, the weekly said companies will be able to freely buy and sell rights on buildings and land in the economic zones and even hand over property deeds with a clause being fixed that can allow the present rights holder to release it to a third party.

Development of land leased can be assisted by North Korean state organizations and companies.

The weekly said Pyongyang has set corporate tax rates for these zones at 14 percent of earnings after the settlement of accounts, with the government pledging the safety of all foreigners in the special zones under North Korean law.

In regards to where the development zones will be set up, the weekly said the North will give priority to areas that can trade easily with the outside world, a region that can contribute to the advancement of the national economy, and a location that is separate from local residences.

The report said that all authority for the new development zones will be given to a centralized economic oversight organization to make it easier for investors to talk to authorities and receive administrative assistance.

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N. Korean Websites Targeted by Int'l Hacking Offline

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A number of North Korean websites and networks were offline on June 25 after an international hacking group warned of cyberattacks on the socialist country, sources said.

The websites of Rodong Sinmun, Choson Shinbo, Air Koryo, and video and sill image site Ryugyong Clip were all out of service as of 4 p.m., said the sources monitoring the Internet sites.

They said that the North's official KCNA and web portal site Naenara were experiencing some problems, although Uriminzokkiri, the North's main propaganda website, was online.

The sites were all targeted in advance by the hacktivist group Anonymous which said it would launch attacks to mark the 63rd anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War.

On June 17, Anonymous claimed on YouTube it had acquired information about high-ranking officials in North Korea's military and ruling party, which it planned to release through WikiLeaks, an online whistle-blower site, on or around the war anniversary.

The loosely associated hacktivist group, whose members maintain anonymity, claimed it planned to attack the networks because the North has been ratcheting up tensions in defiance of wishes of the international community.

In April, Anonymous broke into North Korean websites such as Uriminzokkiri and defaced Minjok Tongshin, an English-language news provider, Paekdu-Hanna.com, Jajusasang.com and Ryugyong Clip.

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N. Korean Female Weightlifter Wins 3 Gold Medals in Asian Championship

SEOUL (Yonhap)-- A North Korean female weightlifter has won three gold medals in the 2013 Asian Weightlifting Championship in Kazakhstan, the North's media said on June 25.

On June 23, Ryo Un-hui cleared 118 kilograms in snatch and 145 kilograms in clean-and-jerk in women's 69-kilogram class, coming first place in both events, the KCNA reported.

Ryo won a third gold in the same weight category by placing No. 1 in total points, the KCNA added.

Another North Korean female weightlifter, Rim Jong-sim, finished second in the same weight class with three silver medals, the news agency said.

"DPRK players top the list of countries in the number of gold and other medals in the championship," the KCNA said, referring to the North by its official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

A total of 140 weightlifters from 19 countries took part in the championship set to end on June 26 after a week-long run from June 20, it said.
(END)

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