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NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 295 (January 9, 2014)

All Headlines 10:57 January 09, 2014

*** TOPIC OF THE WEEK (Part 2)

N.K. Striving to Implement Tasks Set by Kim Jong-un in New Year's Address

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- At the start of the New Year, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans of all walks of life rallied in Pyongyang and major provincial cities, pledging to accomplish national tasks put forward by leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year's address.

In Pyongyang, this year's first mass rally was held at the Kim Il-sung Square on Jan. 6, where key officials from the ruling party, military and the Cabinet as well as workers, students and ordinary citizens attended. North Korea's No. 2 man Kim Yong-nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and Premier Pak Pong-ju attended the rally, the North's official Korean Central TV and Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported.

Following the capital's rally, similar meetings were held in major cities across the socialist country, where North Korean citizens vowed to implement instructions given in the leader's New Year's speech made on Jan. 1.

In a televised New Year's address, Kim Jong-un pledged to rebuild the North's moribund economy in 2014 with an emphasis on agriculture, food production, construction and science-technology. He also called on the two Koreas to work toward better relations and emphasized economic growth and ideological consolidation in the North to build a "thriving socialist country."

In his second verbal New Year's address as leader, Kim defined 2014 as a year of "grandiose struggle to make a fresh leap forward ushering in a golden age of Songun (military-first) Korea."

Mun Kyong-dok, a key official of the ruling Workers' Party, called on officials, party members and other working people in Pyongyang to make contributions to glorify this year "as a year of grandiose struggle, a year of sea changes."

He also called on them to firmly arm themselves with great "Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism" and wage a dynamic drive to implement the Party's ideology and defend its policies, thus becoming "vanguard fighters in the worthwhile general advance for adding brilliance to glorious era of Kim Jong-un." He also underlined the need to open up a new phase of independent reunification, peace and prosperity for the country this year.

Speeches were also made by Ri Chol-man, vice-premier who doubles as the minister of Agriculture, Tong Jong-ho, minister of Construction and Building-Materials Industry, and other elite officials.

They vowed to make a decisive turn in agricultural production this year to demonstrate the validity and vitality of the socialist rural theses, according to the reports. They also vowed to make a tangible contribution to building a rich and powerful nation by waging a drive for going beyond the cutting edge and taking the lead in making a shortcut to the building of knowledge-based economy.

In provincial cities, similar meetings took place on Jan. 6 and 7 in North Phyongan, South and North Hwanghae, Jagang and Ryanggang provinces to "thoroughly carry out the important tasks supreme leader Kim Jong-un set forth in his New Year Address."

They called upon the officials and people in the agricultural field to bring about a decisive turn in agricultural production this year, marking the 50th anniversary of the Theses on the Socialist Rural Question that was made public by the late founding leader Kim Il-sung.

They stressed the need to launch in a bold way the work for realizing the party's grand construction plan and ensuring the quality of structures on the highest level while underlining the need to direct efforts to the development of science and technology needed for the economic development of the country and for the improved livelihoods of its people.

Before the mass rallies in Pyongyang and provincial cities, Kim Jong-un held a military rally to implore his troops to accomplish goals he'd laid out for the new year, Pyongyang's media reported on Jan. 5.

Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, said Kim presided over the meeting of troops under the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces in Pyongyang on Jan. 4.

The paper for the Workers' Party noted that Jang Jong-nam, minister of the People's Armed Forces, and Ri Yong-gil, head of the General Staff of the (North) Korean People's Army (KPA), were present at the rally.

Choe Ryong-hae, director of the KPA General Political Bureau, however, was not named as being among the attendees. Choe has emerged as a new key figure of the North Korean leadership among Pyongyang watchers after the North's young leader executed his uncle in a purge in December.

In his New Year's address, Kim stressed that the North will continue to strengthen its military, saying bolstering its defense capabilities is "the most important of all state affairs."

According to Rodong Sinmun, the rally started with Jang's briefing on the state of the military, followed by a discussion among military officers and a drafting of their resolution.

The paper reported that the troops reaffirmed their drive to solidify Kim's leadership and to establish the "elite, revolutionary force" through rigorous training. The soldiers also said they would cooperate with the civilian sector to reach goals in major construction and economic projects.

Last year, Kim had held similar rallies with the military, factories and cooperative farms across North Korea.

For the second consecutive year, Kim began his series of early-year meetings with the armed forces, further highlighting the regime's military-first policy.

North Korea's state-run media is also intensifying its propaganda efforts to encourage its people to emphatically join the national tasks set forward by Kim's new year address.

"His New Year Address serves as an inspiring banner, instilling confidence in the future and revolutionary pride into the service personnel and people of the DPRK (North Korea) and important guidelines indicating the shortcut to bringing about a leap forward," Rodong Sinmun said in its article.

The paper said, "His New Year Address is of weighty significance in making fresh advances in the movement for national reunification, protecting the sovereignty of the country and peace and demonstrating the dignity of the nation before the whole world this year, true to the behests of the great Generalissimos Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il."

On Jan. 6. the Rodong Sinmun said in an article that "all Koreans in the north, south and overseas should surely make fresh headway in the reunification movement this year by invariably making advances along the road indicated by the line of one Korea, the general principle of reunification for all Koreans."

The newspaper's article said, "It is impossible to achieve reconciliation and unity of the nation without defusing the confrontation between the North and South. We cannot remain a passive onlooker any longer to the painful situation in which the Koreans live, divided by foreign forces. We should put an end to the era of confrontation in which one side slings mud at and shows hostility to the other."

In another editorial, the Rodong Sinmun emphasized the need for all service personnel and people to dash ahead in the spirit of "Masikryong speed" under the leadership of Kim Jong-un. Masikryong is a place in eastern North Korea where a mass ski resort was built last year through the "militant spirit of construction."

The "Masikryong speed" is a new speed for grand socialist construction, a result of Kim Jong-un's great plan for building a rich and powerful nation and his leadership based on patriotic devotion, the editorial noted. It added that the completion of the construction of the world-class ski resort in a matter of a little over one year is a historic miracle which can be wrought only by service personnel of the KPA equipped with "the revolutionary soldier spirit."

Also in early January, young people, agricultural workers and members of the Union of Agricultural Workers of Korea (UAWK) in their meetings on Jan. 7 vowed to thoroughly implement the tasks set forth by Kim Jong-un.

Present there were Ri Yong-su, department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of (North) Korea (WPK), officials of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League and the UAWK and other officials concerned. The meeting of young people was held at the Youth Park Open-Air Theatre in Pyongyang.

The participants in the meeting underscored the need for the young people in the field of agriculture to make contributions to attaining the goal of grain production set by the WPK without fail by playing a pioneer's role in bringing about a signal boost in agricultural production.

They also called on the young people to devote themselves to building up Pyongyang into a more magnificent city and sprucing up their hometowns, villages and worksites.

The North is also boastful of its production achievements. The North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Jan. 7 that officials and workers of different economic sectors have made big efforts to boost production from the beginning of this year.

As an example, the KCNA said officials and workers in the field of agriculture produced hundreds of thousands of tons of organic fertilizer as part of full preparations for this year's farming.

"The Chollima Steel Complex has steadily increased steel production. And workers in various units of the complex, including the Posan Iron Works and ferroalloy shop, are keeping equipment in full operation."

The production is also going up at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and the Hwanghae Iron and Steel Complex. The Musan Mining Complex successfully blasted 350,000 cubic meters of earth in an effort to provide iron and steel mills with more concentrated ore, according to the KCNA report.

Meanwhile, North Korea has dialed down criticism of South Korea since its leader Kim Jong-un at the start of the year called for "a favorable climate" to improve inter-Korean relations.

In December alone, the North's official KCNA criticized South Korean President Park Geun-hye in more than 70 articles. But in a sharp contrast with the past, the KCNA made no direct criticism of Park in the first seven days of this year.

The lull in North Korea's criticism toward the South followed leader Kim's calls for an end to "slander and calumny that bring no good" to both South and North Korea in his New Year's message.

On Jan. 6, President Park welcomed Kim's calls for better ties with the South, and urged Pyongyang to back up its intentions by its actions. South Korea has repeatedly called for the North to end its accusations against Park.

The North also called Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, a traitor while he was in office. It is not unusual for the North to denounce leaders of South Korea as well as those of its key ally, the United States.

Meanwhile, a ranking North Korean official said on Jan. 4 that North Korea is "firmly determined" to strive for improving inter-Korean relations.

"We are strongly determined to pour every bit of effort into achieving national reunification by pushing to improve inter-Korean relations in close cooperation with South Korean and overseas compatriots," said Kang Ji-yong, a director of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK). The statements were printed in an article carried by Rodong Sinmun. The CPRK is the socialist country's arm in charge of cross-border affairs.

Kang's comment came three days after leader Kim Jong-un called for "a favorable climate" to improve ties with South Korea and pledged to make aggressive efforts to strive for better relations in his New Year's message.

Vowing "active efforts" to get to know "the essence of the New Year's message" and to put it into practice, he stressed that this year will be a chance to achieve "a landmark progress" in its reunification movement.

Pyongyang's conciliatory gestures, however, have typically drawn chilly reactions from Seoul and Washington, which call for the North's sincere attitude and concrete steps toward denuclearization before the resumption of any dialogue.

Seoul's unification ministry spokesperson Kim Eui-do said the government "has no choice but to question the North's sincerity," citing its track record of carrying out provocation as a reason for caution on its peace offensive.

Last year, Pyongyang issued a similar peace gesture before taking a series of provocative actions, including a third nuclear test in February, threats of nuclear war and the unilateral closure of an inter-Korean factory park in April.

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