Thursday, February 20, 2014

South Korean News: NORTH KOREA NEWSLETTER NO. 299 (6 Feb 2014)

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North Korea-weekly review-5FOREIGN TIPS

N. Korean leader's aunt in Europe: report

TOKYO (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt is staying in Europe following the execution of her husband, Jang Song-thaek, a news report said on Jan. 30.

Kim Kyong-hui, a senior party secretary and sister of late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, stayed in Switzerland after the North executed Jang in December on charges of treason, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reported, citing unidentified sources.

The newspaper also said it obtained information that she later moved to Poland where Kim Pyong-il, the half-brother of late leader Kim Jong-il, has been serving as the North's top envoy since 1998. Kim Jong-il was the father of current leader Kim.

In Seoul, the National Intelligence Service, South Korea's top spy agency, said Kim's reported stay in Europe has not been confirmed.

Kim Kyong-hui was last seen in public on Sept. 9 when she watched a military performance.

South Korean officials said earlier this month that Kim Kyong-hui appeared to be in gravely poor health.'


NK leader focuses on military inspections following uncle's execution

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's military inspections accounted for two-thirds of his public activities in January, an analysis by Yonhap News Agency showed on Feb. 1.

According to the analysis into Pyongyang's three media outlets -- the Korean Central News Agency, Korean Central Television and Rodong Sinmun -- Kim partook in nine publicized activities in January, with six of them related to the military.

Though military inspections by the North Korean ruler are not unusual, his recent trips have drawn particular attention after his powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek was ousted in a shocking execution in December.

It also comes while the communist state is offering a series of conciliatory gestures toward Seoul, calling on South Korea and the United States to cancel their upcoming joint military drills, set to run from late February through April. 
Early last month, Kim visited the command post and a freezing facility at the Ministry of the People's Armed Forces. He also attended a military band's performance.

Late January, he observed exercises by the North's air force unit and special forces as routine winter drills have been underway since early December. 
The other three events, which were not related to the military, were announcing the New Year's message, watching a friendly basketball game led by former NBA star Dennis Rodman to mark the leader's birthday on Jan. 8, and visiting a state-run science institute in the capital Pyongyang. 
Kim's latest moves are different from those observed during the same period of last year, when the young leader focused on economic inspections, which included visiting a construction site and convening a party meeting.

In response to the international move to impose additional sanctions on Pyongyang for its long-range rocket launch in December 2012, Kim convened a meeting of law enforcement and police officials to urge them to tighten security in January 2013.

Kim's recent military inspections sparked speculation that the communist state is seeking to forge internal unity following the highly publicized political upheaval involving Jang, once considered the nation's No. 2.

"Kim Jong-un's recent activities are seen as an effort to boost military morale and show his commitment to national security," said Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. "It also seems to show the regime's stability following Jang Song-thaek's execution."


Pyongyang scales back anti-Seoul radio broadcast, leaflets near border

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea has recently toned down anti-South Korea rhetoric via propaganda radio broadcasts and leaflets after it suggested halting cross-border slander to improve bilateral ties, Seoul's defense ministry said on Feb. 3.

Pyongyang has recently reduced the number of its radio programs broadcast via loudspeakers along the inter-Korean border and temporarily stopped flying propaganda leaflets near its western border since the communist state offered a series of peace gestures toward Seoul last month.

"North Korea's threats and propaganda radio broadcasts against South Korea have continually decreased of late," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a briefing. "However, other activities including military drills have not stopped." 
Since Pyongyang called on Seoul to halt all acts provoking and slandering the other side in mid-January, no propaganda balloon has been detected near the western front, according to military officials.

While the North's latest moves are seen as part of its peace gesture, North Korea has continually been carrying out its winter drills since December, though some were reduced during the Lunar New Year holiday last week, they said.'


Trade between N. Korea, China hits record $6.45 bln in 2013

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- Trade volume between North Korea and its major trading partner China reached a record US$6.45 billion last year, up 10.4 percent from a year earlier, data showed on Feb. 1.

North Korean exports to China jumped 17.2 percent on-year, while imports from China increased 5.4 percent, according to the data from the Korea International Trade Association.

Pyongyang's trade deficit recorded $721 million, a 25 percent decrease compared with the previous year, the data showed.

North Korea's major export items were minerals, with $1.37 billion worth of anthracite and $294.1 million of iron ore shipped to China last year.

North Korea's anthracite exports are a major source of income, and China is virtually the only destination for the shipments.

The isolated socialist state heavily relied on China for crude oil, buying $598.1 million from its sole financial and diplomatic backer.

Inbound shipments of China-made cell phones fell to $44 million last year, shrinking by 26.6 percent from a year ago.

The latest data showed the heavily sanctioned North Korea is increasingly reliant on China, even though the Asian giant has become frustrated with its wayward neighbor, particularly after Pyongyang's third nuclear test early last year.

Beijing voted in favor of tougher United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang for conducting the nuclear test.'


N. Korea to be 340,000 tons of grain short in 2014: report

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- North Korea is likely to face a shortage of 340,000 tons of grain this year, a report showed on Feb. 2, which would mean another year to its chronic food scarcity.

The report contributed to the Korea Development Institute said Pyongyang is estimated to need some 5.37 million tons of grain this year.

The estimate was based on assumptions that the population of the communist country is 24.8 million and that each person consumed an annual average of 175 kilograms of grain in 2013.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program, who had visited the North for about two weeks in late September to survey food production, forecast the communist country's grain production at 5.03 million tons this year.

"While North Korea can cover a shortage of 300,000 tons with imports, it will have to rely on international aid for the remaining 40,000 tons," the report written by the Korea Rural Economic Institute said.

The report noted that the country's grain production in the last few years falls far short of 6 million tons during the 1980s.

It said while North Korea is making efforts to cultivate food from all arable lands, the country is suffering losses in productivity due to soil erosion and floods.

North Korea suffers from chronic food shortages with the average amount of rice and corn consumed by the people said to be only half of the daily consumption recommended by the United Nations.'


Fuel ration seems to have been dismantled in N. Korea: report 

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- A fuel ration system in North Korea seems to have been dismantled due to a chronic fuel shortage, a report said on Feb. 3.

The report by the state-run Korea Energy Economics Institute (KEEI) said a majority of households in North Korea secure their fuel for heating and cooking on the black market or by themselves, hinting that the country's fuel ration system might have been scrapped.

The report was made on the basis of data compiled from a poll of 350 North Korean defectors who fled the country after 2011.

According to the report, 51.1 percent of the North's households bought their heating and cooking fuel on the market, with 42 percent gathering their fuel, such as firewood, by themselves.

Only 6.8 percent of them were provided with fuel for heating and cooking through the country's fuel ration channel.

The energy consumption of a North Korean household was estimated at 0.291 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) as of 2011. The TOE is a unit of energy which is equivalent to the amount of energy released by burning one ton of crude oil.

The consumption of energy gaining from coal briquettes accounted for 36.8 percent of the total, reaching 0.107 TOE, followed by wood with 0.069 TOE, electricity with 0.038 TOE, oil products with 0.025 TOE and propane gas with 0.023 TOE.

The energy consumption for heating took up 50.9 percent of the total, amounting to 0.148 TOE.

The KEEI said a program for fuel aid to North Korea should be mapped out on the basis of exact data on the energy consumption in the North's private sector.'


U.N. fund gives US$15.1 mln to N. Korea in 2013

SEOUL (Yonhap) -- The United Nations humanitarian fund created to speed up relief efforts around the world said on Feb. 3 that it allocated US$15.1 million for aid to North Korea in 2013.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) said on its website that it provided emergency food assistance, as well as vaccines and essential medicines, to people in the flood-affected regions especially children and women in the communist North through the World Food Program and other U.N. organizations.

In 2012, the U.N. humanitarian fund allocated $12.9 million to North Korea.

The CERF provided a total of $482 million to 45 countries across the globe last year, with North Korea being the 11th-largest recipient.

The North has relied on international handouts since the late 1990s when it suffered a widespread famine that was estimated to have killed 2 million people.'


N. Korea to miss first Winter Games in 12 years: official

SOCHI (Yonhap) -- North Korea will miss the Winter Olympic Games for the first time in 12 years, an Olympics official here said on Feb. 4.

An official with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said no North Korean has qualified for the Feb. 7-23 Sochi Winter Games in Russia. North Korean athletes also failed to earn special "wild cards" for the Olympics as granted by international sports federations, the official added.

The Sochi Winter Olympics' website lists North Korea as a participating country but doesn't display any athlete.

Last month, an informed source in Moscow told Yonhap News Agency that Pyongyang would send Kim Yong-nam, the country's ceremonial head of state, to Sochi's opening ceremony, even if the North wouldn't have athletes in competition.

North Korea last missed a Winter Olympics in 2002 in Salt Lake City. The reclusive state's first Winter Games was in Innsbruck in 1966, where speed skater Han Pil-hwa grabbed the silver medal in the women's 3,000 meters. It was the North's first ever Olympic medal, winter or summer.

The North also entered the Winters Games in 1972, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1998. In Albertville in 1992, short tracker Hwang Ok-sil won the bronze in the women's 500m.

North Korea sent six athletes to the Turin Games in 2006 and two more to Vancouver in 2010 without winning any medal.

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