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News North Korea

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Woman appeals for father's release.

October 20, 2005 ㅡ The daughter of a South Korean fisherman abducted by North Korea decades ago yesterday appealed to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, asking him to return her father.

She also criticized the South Korean government and public for a lack of effort on their part and suggested that they should emulate North Korea's consistent pressure for the return of its citizens jailed here.
Published as a paid advertisement in the South Korean daily Munhwa Ilbo, Choi Woo-young introduced herself as a daughter of Choi Jong-seok, a crew member of the 'Dongjin,' which was seized by a North Korean patrol boat on Jan. 15, 1987. 'I am writing this letter to you, because I can no longer trust this society and wait for my aging father's repatriation,' she said, adding that North Korea had promised to return the crew within a month.

'In 1999, the National Intelligence Service said my father was detained at a political prison, and I have tried to work out every possible way to bring him back for the past six years,' she wrote. In 2000, she formed the civic group Families of the Abducted and Detained in North Korea.
Ms. Choi said her hopes had risen when the South returned North Korean prisoners in 2000, but saw no progress. She asked, at a minimum, for humane treatment. 'I was told my father is in bad health, so please provide him with medical care,' she wrote.

Seoul says that 486 South Korean civilians, including the crew of Dongjin, have been abducted to the North since the end of the Korean War.

In 2002, Ms. Choi filed a lawsuit against the government for not acting more aggressively in her father's case. She argued that the government had not raised the issue of her father or those of other abducted South Koreans during the June 2000 inter-Korean summit. She lost the case in trial court and has appealed. The lower court ruling said the government made a strategic decision not to risk large losses for a 'small gain.'

by Ser Myo-ja, myoja@joongang.co.kr, Joongang Daily
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Dear Leader' Sleepless in Pyongyang

By Ryu Jin
Staff Reporter
``To go nuclear or not, that is the question!’’

There is a man on the globe who, consumed with an ambition for nukes, wouldn’t always find it easy to get to sleep at night. And it is not just because he is getting to the age where it just is harder to get asleep.

Kim Jong-il, now 63, is staging the fight of his life against the United States, a half-century-old foe of the hermit kingdom his father founded. But this time, the North Korean leader encounters real heavy odds coming from Texas _ U.S. President George W. Bush.

Though he is said to have ``successfully’’ led the van of the first nuclear gamble in 1993-94, when Kim Il-sung passed away, Kim Junior may find things going in quite different ways than the previous bout. And it seems largely because of the new intractable guy across the Pacific.

Since he instructed his negotiation team to stay away from the six-party talks late last year, Kim has plodded along ratcheting up nuclear tension on the peninsula by declaring he has bombs, halting a key nuclear reactor and then unloading spent fuel rods for more plutonium.

In the first nuclear crisis, his traditional ``brinkmanship’’ tactics did work as Bill Clinton came out to comply with the North’s call for bilateral bargaining which finally resulted in a freeze-for-reward deal in Geneva in late 1994.

But, this time, his repeated call for a tango _ which takes two to dance _ seems barely drawing attention from his archrival, who is all indulged in a group dance. Once bitten, the U.S. _ now led by Bush _ seems only interested in the six-party talks before it turns to ``other options.’’

South Korea issued a ``serious concern’’ over the North’s removal of 8,000 spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor last week, but the U.S. responded with its ``indifference tactics’’ to the latest step which experts said was aimed at raising stakes in the 31-month-long standoff.

Some say that Kim pursues nuclear weapons only for another deal with the U.S., but others argue he may have already made up his mind to go nuclear since he believes there is nothing but atomic bombs that would certainly save his regime.

Nobody, however, can say for sure what the North’s ``Dear Leader’’ has in mind. Maybe Kim, himself, would not find it easy right now to say which path he wants to take.

Wang Jiarui, a high-profile Chinese official who went Pyongyang in February to meet Kim, told a group of South Korean lawmakers in Beijing Tuesday that he thought the North Korean leader seemed to be ``agonizing over whether to own atomic weapons or dismantle the programs.’’

Late last year and early this year, a number of news media raised speculations of a possible change in Gen. Kim’s power status in the secretive state. But, intelligence sources brush aside any indication of such an occurrence, saying the regime is ruled quite stably despite all the hullabaloos from outside.

``Bush called Kim a `tyrant.’ But, don’t think of the North Koreans from your own perspectives,’’ said a diplomatic source in Seoul, who spent many years in the North. ``It is a country whose people believe they can follow even a thorny path when led by its leader.’’

An intelligence agent also said that, once he makes up his mind to do away with nuclear weapons, Kim can translate the decision into action despite possible objection from hard-line military officers.

It is difficult, at least for now, to imagine what picture Kim might be drawing in his mind. But one thing is clear: he wants to save his life and maintain his kingdom, which his family has reined for more than 50 years.

Every night in bed, he might be calculating which would better guarantee that goal of survival _ to go nuclear and embrace a hopeless future or to give up nuclear ambition for economic aids. Over the weekend, North Korea agreed on talks with the South _ after a 10-month hiatus.

jinryu@koreatimes.co.kr

05-15-2005 17:17
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Here's a foreign affairs quiz:

(1) How many nuclear weapons did North Korea produce in Bill Clinton's eight years of office?

(2) How many nuclear weapons has it produced so far in President Bush's four years in office?

The answer to the first question, by all accounts, is zero. The answer to the second is fuzzier, but about six.

The total will probably rise in coming months, for North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon reactor and says that it plans to extract the fuel rods from it. That will give it enough plutonium for two or three more weapons.

The single greatest failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy concerns North Korea. Mr. Bush's policies toward North Korea have backfired and led the North to churn out nuclear weapons, and they have also antagonized our allies and diminished America's stature in Asia.

The upshot is that there's a significantly greater risk of another Korean War, a greater likelihood that other Asian countries, like Japan, will eventually go nuclear as well, and a greater risk that terrorists will acquire plutonium or uranium.

In fairness, all this is more Kim Jong Il's fault than Mr. Bush's. Right now some administration officials are glaring at this page and muttering expletives about smarty-pants journalists who don't appreciate how wretched all the options are.

But if the Bush administration had just adopted the policies that Colin Powell initially pushed for - and that Mr. Bush largely came to accept several years later - then this mess could probably have been averted.

A bit of background: North Korea made one or two nuclear weapons around 1989, during the first Bush administration, but froze its plutonium program under the 1994 "Agreed Framework" with the Clinton administration. North Korea adhered to the freeze on plutonium production, but about 1999, it secretly started on a second nuclear route involving uranium.

That was much less worrisome than the plutonium program (it still seems to be years from producing a single uranium weapon), and it probably could have been resolved through negotiation, as past crises had been.

Instead, Mr. Bush refused to negotiate bilaterally, so now we have the worst of both worlds: that uranium program is still in place, and the plutonium program is churning out weapons material as well.

Now the administration talks about asking the Security Council for some kind of limited quarantine for North Korea. That won't fly, because China and South Korea won't enforce it.

It's more likely that North Korea will continue to churn out plutonium as well as uranium, and perhaps conduct an underground nuclear test. And administration hawks will again consider a military strike on Yongbyon, even though that would risk another Korean War.

North Korea is the most odious country in the world today. It has been caught counterfeiting U.S. dollars and smuggling drugs, and prisoners have been led along with wire threaded through their collarbones so they can't run away. While some two million North Koreans were starving to death in the late 1990's, Mr. Kim spent $2.6 million on Swiss watches. He's the kind of man who, when he didn't like a haircut once, executed the barber.

But Mr. Bush seems frozen in the headlights, unable to take any action at all toward North Korea. American policy now is to hope that Mr. Kim has a heart attack.

Selig Harrison, an American scholar just back from Pyongyang, says North Korean officials told him that in direct negotiations with the U.S., they would be willing to discuss a return to their plutonium freeze. Everything would depend on the details, including verification, but why are we refusing so adamantly even to explore this possibility?

The irony is that Mr. Bush's policies toward North Korea have steadily become more reasonable over time. Perhaps by the time he leaves office, he'll finally be willing to negotiate seriously with the North Koreans.

But by then North Korea will have well over a dozen nuclear weapons, the risks of a terrorist nuclear explosion at Grand Central Terminal will be increased, and our influence in Asia will be in tatters.

E-mail: nicholas@nytimes.com

The above article is from The New York Times.

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Bird flu outbreak in North Korea (bbc news Sunday, 27 March 2005)

North Korea says it has had a first outbreak of the deadly bird flu virus.
The state Korean Central News Agency said no people had been infected but hundreds of thousands of chickens had been culled and the carcasses burned.

The agency only said that the outbreak was "recent"
and occurred at "two or three" chicken farms. It did not specify the virus type. The H5N1 virus has killed almost 50 people since its resurgence in South East Asia in December 2003.

Tight controls

KCNA said Hadang farm in Pyongyang, among the city's largest, was one of the sites of the outbreak. North Korea had previously said it was free of the virus that has struck many countries in south and east Asia.
South Korean news agency Yonhap earlier this month reported an outbreak at Hadang, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to ask the reclusive North for information.

The North has relied on food aid for more than a decade but imposes tight controls on foreign visitors and aid workers. Experts fear the H5N1 virus could eventually combine with human flu and threaten a deadly pandemic. There are suspected cases of the virus being passed between humans. So far, Vietnam has been the country hardest hit by this outbreak of bird flu.

(H5N1 BIRD FLU VIRUS
Principally an avian disease, first seen in humans in Hong Kong, 1997
Almost all human cases thought to be contracted from birds
Isolated cases of human-to-human transmission in Hong Kong and Vietnam)



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