Academic journal article North Korean Review

North Korean Newsbriefs

Academic journal article North Korean Review

North Korean Newsbriefs

Article excerpt

April

American Border Crosser Sentenced

American citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes (30), who trespassed into North Korea on January 25, was sentenced on April 6 to eight years of hard labor and fined 70 million won (700,000 U.S. dollars). Gomes, an elementary school English teacher in South Korea and Christian activist, walked into North Korea following the December 25 example of co-activist Robert Park. Pyongyang released Park on "humanitarian" grounds in February. Gomes, who is from Massachusetts, got the attention of Democratic senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry, who expressed hope for Gomes' release. Washington requested amnesty, and Gomes spoke with his family by phone on Friday 30.

Investigation of Cheonan Sinking

On April 6, General Walter Sharp of U.S. Forces Korea said a joint American- South Korean team would be formed to investigate the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan patrol boat. Australia committed experts on Tuesday 13 to assist in the international investigation. Britain and Sweden were also asked to join. Forty-six crewmen died after a sudden explosion at the stern during a routine patrol mission near the contested inter-Korean maritime border. Confronting open speculation of a North Korean mine or torpedo attack, Pyongyang denied any involvement in the sinking and set up a special section on the Korean Central News Agency website to report its position on the incident.

Alleged North Korean Assassins Arrested

South Korean intelligence arrested Kim Myong-ho (36) and Tong Myong-kwan (36) on Tuesday 20. The two North Korean majors reportedly posed as defectors while on a mission to assassinate Hwang-jang Yop (87). Hwang, a Moscow-trained theoretician and ex-secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, was the highest ranking North Korean to defect into South Korea in 1997. He is a systemizer of Kim Ilsung's Juche (independent stand or spirit of self-reliance) ideology and a past tutor of Kim Jong-il. The North Korean media had previously threatened Hwang for his cooperation with Seoul. On May 5, Pyongyang called the alleged assassination plot a "ridiculous fabrication."

Pyongyang Seizes Properties at Mt. Kumgang

Following North Korean warnings in March about "extraordinary measures" and unspecified punishments if South Korean tours to Mount Kumgang are not resumed, the poverty-stricken state proceeded, on Friday 23, to seize a cultural center, duty-free shop, fire station, reunion center, and spa at Mount Kumgang to compensate for tens of millions in financial losses. Tours, which are run jointly with the Hyundai Asan Corporation and the North Korean government, were suspended after the fatal shooting of South Korean tourist and housewife Park Wang-ja (53) on July 11, 2008. Seoul denounced Pyongyang for its freezing and confiscation of South Korean business assets.

May

Kim Jong-il Visits China

Kim Jong-il visited China from May 3 to 7 to discuss economic and security issues with President Hu Jintao. The North Korean leader is said to have agreed to return to the Beijing-sponsored six-party nuclear talks, suspended since December 2008. North Korea withdrew in April 2009 in face of U.S. pressure and United Nations condemnation of ballistic missile tests. Kim, who made his last Chinese visit in January 2006, requires the assistance of China, the greatest economic benefactor and political ally of the impoverished Stalinist state. After Kim's visit, North Korea claimed on Wednesday 12 that it created a nuclear fusion reaction in April. A similar claim was made in 1989.

South Accuses North of Sinking Cheonan

On Thursday 20, after the investigation of the Cheonan sinking, Seoul accused North Korea of a submarine attack. Three days earlier, it was decided to freeze funds for North Korea. Washington denounced the sinking as an unlawful "act of aggression" breaching the 1953 armistice agreement. Pyongyang called the investigation and accusations "fabricated" and "foolish," warning of "all-out war" if it is punished. …

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