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Summary of domestic news in North Korea this week

All News 16:00 April 17, 2020

SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of domestic news in North Korea this week.

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N.K. leader supervises mortar firing drill ahead of major parliamentary meeting

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has overseen a mortar firing drill, state media reported Friday, ahead of a key meeting of the country's rubber-stamp legislature to be watched closely for any message to the United States.

Kim's attendance in the exercise suggests that a politburo or a plenary meeting of the country's ruling Workers' Party, which used to be held on the eve of a Supreme People's Assembly session, did not take place, and therefore, Friday's SPA meeting may not lead to significant decisions.

The official Korean Central News Agency said that Kim "guided the drill of mortar sub-units" of the Korean People's Army "aimed at learning about the power of light guns and heavy weapons" and "judging and estimating the firepower combat abilities of mortar-men."

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N. Korea stays mum on much-anticipated parliamentary meeting amid coronavirus fears

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has been silent on a much-anticipated meeting of the country's rubber-stamp parliament a day after it was supposed to take place, spawning speculation the session might have been canceled or delayed amid its nationwide fight against the novel coronavirus.

The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) was to meet Friday, but there has been no word about it, an usual move considering that state media has reported on the outcome of such a major parliamentary meeting mostly late at night of the same day when it took place or the next morning.

The North announced its plan to hold the meeting in mid-March despite Pyongyang's all-out efforts to block an outbreak of COVID-19 on its soil. Many expected this week's session to be scaled down compared with previous years.

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N.K. leader holds politburo meeting to discuss anti-virus measures

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has presided over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, discussing anti-coronavirus measures and electing his sister as an alternate member of the bureau, state media said Sunday.

The politburo meeting held on Saturday suggests that a key session of the country's rubber-stamp legislature Supreme People's Assembly, which was supposed to take place on Friday, has been postponed for unclear reasons because a politburo meeting usually takes place on the eve of an SPA session.

The meeting discussed antivirus efforts, budget issues and other organization matters, and a resolution was adopted "on more thoroughly taking national measures for protecting the life and safety of our people to cope with the worldwide epidemic disease," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

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N.K. leader Kim inspects air defense unit

SEOUL, April 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has inspected an air defense unit, state media said Sunday, in his latest step apparently aimed at tightening troop discipline and readiness amid new coronavirus fears.

Kim visited a pursuit assault plane group under the Air and Anti-Aircraft Division in the western area to check its performance of aerial defense, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said without mentioning when his visit took place.

"Kim Jong Un learned about the readiness for sortie of the fighters and the performance of duties of airspace defense in the western area," the state media said in its English-language article.

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N. Korea holds parliamentary meeting two days later than planned

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has held a key session of its rubber-stamp legislature, dealing with budgetary issues and electing its foreign minister and others as new members of the country's most powerful decision-making body led by leader Kim Jong-un, state media reported Monday.

The meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) took place Sunday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported, confirming that the session, which had originally been scheduled for Friday, was postponed for unspecified reasons.

Leader Kim did not attend the meeting.

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N. Korea increases budget for health, construction projects amid anti-virus efforts

SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has increased its health budget for this year and set aside nearly half of the total spending plans for economic construction projects amid efforts to prevent an outbreak of the coronavirus in an economy faltering under global sanctions.

During a session of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) in Pyongyang on Sunday, the North forecast that its revenue will grow 4.2 percent on-year this year with its expenditures projected to increase 6 percent over the same period, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

According to the KCNA, the North has increased spending on economic construction projects this year by 6.2 percent on-year, accounting for 47.8 percent of the total spending.

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N. Korea fires barrage of missiles on eve of founder's birthday, S. Korea's elections

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korea fired what appeared to be cruise missiles off its east coast and air-to-ground missiles from fighter jets into the East Sea on Tuesday, South Korea's military said, in muscle-flexing maneuvers on the eve of the late national founder's birthday and the South's general elections.

The surface-to-ship cruise missiles were fired northeastward from areas near its eastern coastal town of Munchon at around 7 a.m. during a time period of more than 40 minutes, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said, adding they flew around 150 kilometers before splashing into waters off the east coast.

Along with the missile launches, the North flew Sukhoi-variant fighter jets and MiG-type planes above the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, and fired multiple air-to-ground missiles into the East Sea, the JCS added.

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N. Korea marks late founder's birthday quietly amid anti-coronavirus efforts

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- North Korea marked the 108th birthday of late national founder Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un, relatively quietly Wednesday without large-scale celebratory events drawing crowds of people amid efforts to ward off the coronavirus pandemic.

The founder's birthday, referred to in the North as the Day of the Sun, is the country's biggest national holiday and has often been commemorated with massive military parades displaying new weapons and other cultural and sports events.

On Wednesday, the Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, ran a series of articles lauding the late founder, but there was no report about celebratory events or gatherings of people usually held across the country on the eve of the anniversary.

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N. Korea makes no mention of visit to mausoleum by leader Kim on late founder's birthday

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korean state media reported Thursday that senior officials paid their respect at the mausoleum of late national founder Kim Il-sung to mark his 108th birthday but did not mention whether leader Kim Jong-un also paid a visit there.

That raises the possibility that Kim skipped an annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun that he has made on the birthday of the national founder and his grandfather since he rose to power after the death of his father and former leader Kim Jong-il in late 2011.

Some observers said Kim could have skipped a visit due to coronavirus concerns.
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