In the News – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

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In the News – North Korea says nearly 120 killed after July rainfalls

(Reuters) РRecent torrential rain and a typhoon inNorth Korea have killed 119 people, made more than 84,000 homeless and destroyed some 46,000 hectares of crops, the official news agency said on Wednesday.

It is now feared that the rains and typhoon that led to floods in many parts of the impoverished country will deal a severe blow to North Korea’s already malfunctioning economy and exacerbate its already serious food shortages.

“Downpours swept some east and west coastal areas of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on July 29-30, leaving 31 people dead and 16 missing,” the KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, using the country’s official name.

This was on top of the damage KCNA previously reported as resulting from about a week of heavy rainfall and floods earlier in July, which led to 88 deaths and left thousands left homeless.

A United Nations inter-agency team was already deployed to the two hardest-hit areas to assess the damage from recent floods with a view to developing an aid plan, a U.N. official said on Tuesday.

Since the mid-1990s, North Korea’s farm sector has frequently been devastated by floods and drought. The floods could weigh on Kim’s efforts to buoy the moribund economy.

Landslides and lightning storms also led to some casualties while floods damaged some coal mines, North Korea’s primary energy source, KCNA also reported on Wednesday.

North Korea remains one of the most isolated states in the world. That has not changed since new leader Kim Jong-un took power seven months ago.

A recent United Nations report classified 7.2 million of the 24 million population as “chronic poor” and said one in three children were stunted due to poor nutrition.

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

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In the News – S. Koreans to file suit against N. Korean leader in int’l criminal court

SEOUL, July 25 (Yonhap) — A South Korean private committee said Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with the International Criminal Court in September.

The move is designed to put pressure on the communist country to repatriate the hundreds of South Korean soldiers taken prisoner and the remains of those killed during the 1950-53 Korean War, said Park Sun-young, a former lawmaker who has championed the rights of North Korean defectors and South Korean prisoners of war (POWs).

The committee, which calls for the return of the South Korean POWs, also said it plans to present a petition to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the issue in the fall, said Park, one of about 50 committee members.

“The pressure will be enormous,” Park said after a news conference in the National Assembly as she vowed to make efforts to try to bring home aging former South Korean soldiers.

South Korea estimates about 500 POWs are believed to still be alive in the North. Pyongyang denies holding any POWs and claims former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.

Park claimed former South Korean soldiers toil in mines in the North, citing testimonies of some of the 56 former POWs who escaped to the South after spending decades in the North.

The war ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically still at war.

She also said the committee plans to upload testimonies of former South Korean POWs to YouTube to raise international awareness of the issue.

Choi Eun-suk, a North Korea legal expert at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said he did not think it is impossible to pressure the North to return former South Korean soldiers. He did not elaborate.

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In the News – Dossier: U.S. found N. Korea behind 1987 KAL bombing

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In the News – Dossier: U.S. found N. Korea behind 1987 KAL bombing

By Lee Chi-dong, Lee Woo-tak
WASHINGTON, July 18 (Yonhap) — The United States government conducted its own investigation into the mid-air bombing of a South Korean jet in 1987 and concluded it was an act by North Korea, a set of declassified State Department documents shows.

U.S. government officials interrogated Kim Hyun-hui, a self-confessed North Korean terrorist responsible for the bombing of Korean Air (KAL) 858, which killed 115 people, shortly after the incident in November 1987, according to the dossier.

Kim, traveling with a fake Japanese passport through Europe, made a failed attempt to commit suicide shortly before being arrested. She is now living in South Korea as a housewife.

“In a situation we controlled Ms. Kim picked out the photographs of 3 North Koreans who had contacted her under alias in Belgrade and Budapest, 2 in Belgrade one in Budapest,” read a diplomatic cable sent from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul to Washington in February 1988.

It is among 57 documents posted in June on the department’s website.

“Then 3 photographs were picked out of a collection of 26 shown her. In each case the individual she picked was in fact the photograph of a North Korean investigation department agent posted in that city at the time she was there,” it added. “We consider that part of the compelling independent evidence that she was working for North Korea.”

This file photo shows Kim Hyun-hui is taken out of a plane in South Korea, with her mouth taped, on Dec. 15 1987. (Yonhap)

The document also showed that a bureau affiliated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency carried out a linguistic analysis of Kim’s statement, “which demonstrates that the words she used are North Korean (dialect).”

The Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) was run by the CIA from 1941 to 2004.

South Korean officials also “strongly suspected” North Korea’s involvement from the beginning of their probe and reached the same conclusion, another document shows.

But the South Korean government, led by iron-fisted President Chun Doo-hwan, did not consider military retaliation, according to the document.

“Chun went on that he would rule out military retaliation at that time,” James Lilley, who served then as U.S. ambassador to Seoul, said in a cable sent in January 1988.

Chun was quoted as saying, “South Korea was in the course of a political transition and had to host the Olympics.”

In his comments attached, Lilley said, “There are Koreans who favor military retaliation but emphatic that Korea would not undertake any military action in the short term.”

In South Korea, there is a lingering controversy over the KAL case.

Some still claim that the Chun administration might have orchestrated the bombing itself to influence the presidential elections in December 1987.

In 1988, meanwhile, the U.S. blacklisted North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism on the basis of the KAL incident.

Washington removed Pyongyang from the list in 2008 in return for its initial move towards denuclearization.

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In the News – N.Korean Army Chief ‘Refused to Go Quietly’

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In the News – N.Korean Army Chief ‘Refused to Go Quietly’

A gunbattle broke out when the North Korean regime removed army chief Ri Yong-ho from office, leaving 20 to 30 soldiers dead, according to unconfirmed intelligence reports. Some intelligence analysts believe Ri, who has not been seen since his abrupt sacking earlier this week, was injured or killed in the confrontation.

According to government officials here, the gunbattle erupted when Vice Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, the director of the People’s Army General Political Bureau, tried to detain Ri in the process of carrying out leader Kim Jong-un’s order to sack him. Guards protecting Ri, who is a vice marshal, apparently opened fire. “We cannot rule out the possibility that Ri was injured or even killed in the firefight,” said one source.

Choe is believed to be the right-hand man of Jang Song-taek, the uncle and patron of the young North Korean leader. He made his career in the Workers Party rather than the army. After being appointed director of the bureau, Choe repeatedly clashed with Ri, who came up as a field commander, prompting Choe to keep Ri under close watch and apparently triggering an internal probe targeting the army chief.

The military had grown tremendously in power under former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s “songun” or military-first doctrine, and military heavyweights like Ri who grew in stature during this period were considered threats to the young North Korean leader.

“The firefight has still not been 100 percent confirmed,” said a government official here. “It may take some time for us to gain a clearer picture of what happened.”

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In the News – U.S. official: No evidence North Korean leader is dead

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In the News – U.S. official: No evidence North Korean leader is dead

A photo released by North Korea's official news agency on Thursday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center.

A photo released by North Korea's official news agency on Thursday shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center.

(CNN)¬†— The U.S. intelligence community has found no evidence to suggest North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is dead, a senior U.S. official said Friday following posts on China’s version of Twitter that claimed Kim had been assassinated while in Beijing.

U.S. intelligence officials have been looking into such rumors for more than a week, according to the official, who has direct knowledge of the latest U.S. analysis. Continue reading