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North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in ‘unanimous poll win’

Posted by Nuttapon_S On March - 10 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been elected to the country’s rubber-stamp parliament with a unanimous vote from his district, state media say.

Mr Kim’s 100% approval from his Mount Paektu constituency reflects the “absolute support” of people in the country, KCNA news agency says.

The elections for the Supreme People’s Assembly on Sunday had just one name on the ballot for each district.

It was the first time such a poll had been held since Mr Kim assumed power.

His younger sister has also made her first official appearance in state media, suggesting that she is a rising force in the hierarchy.

Kim Yo-jong, who is thought to be 26, was shown in Mr Kim’s entourage as he went to cast his ballot at a polling station at Kim Il-sung university.

She was identified by name and the honorific “comrade” by state television and described as a senior official.

She has been seen accompanying her brother on previous occasions but has not been identified by name before.

Kim Jong-un goes to cast a ballot, accompanied by senior officials including his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong
Kim Jong-un’s younger sister is seen as a rising figure in the North Korean hierarchy

Kim Jong-un became leader of North Korea following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

North Korea usually votes once every five years to approve members of the highest legislative body, the Supreme People’s Assembly.

Each of the 687 districts had only one candidate running for office, with voters required to write “Yes” or “No” on the ballot paper.

KCNA said of Mr Kim’s victory: “This is an expression of all the service personnel and people’s absolute support and profound trust in Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un as they single-mindedly remain loyal to him.”

The results of the other districts have yet to be announced.

Mr Kim holds many titles, including Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

Analysts say that the only real value in these polls is in watching for any signs of change in the list of state-approved candidates.

The democratic duty for voters in these elections is not so much deciding who they want to represent them, but whether they agree with the ruling party’s choice, says the BBC’s Lucy Williamson in Seoul.

In the election held in 2009, turnout was 99%, with 100% of votes in favour of the named candidates.

North Korea Puts Yorkshire Terriers In Zoo

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 28 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

A zoo in North Korea has reportedly welcomed its newest animal attraction – a pack of Yorkshire Terriers.

The miniature dogs have been introduced to Central Zoo in the capital Pyongyang, according to state media.

Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said the dogs are now learning “several feats”, although it did not elaborate on the type of tricks they might perform.

North Koreans not familiar with ‘Yorkies’, which were bred in Yorkshire to catch rats and mice by scuttling around clothing mills, were given a helpful guide to the pint-sized pet.

“Each one has long hair – tan on its head and legs and blue grey on its body,” KCNA reported.

“It is 22-24cm tall and weighs 2.5-3.5kg. It lives about 14 years on an average.”

A picture released by KCNA appeared to show three Yorkshire Terriers in seemingly good condition.

However, Central Zoo was previously condemned by travel publication Lonely Planet, whose website claims most of the animals kept there “look pretty forlorn”.

“Worst off are the big cats, nearly all gifts of long-dead communist big wigs around the world – the wonderful lions, tigers and leopards are kept in woefully inadequate compounds, and many have lost the plot as a result,” it says.

“The zoo’s two elephants and its hippo all look exceptionally lacklustre as well.”

Footage uploaded to YouTube in December 2012 by documentary maker Alun Hill appeared to show bears and elephants trudging around largely concrete enclosures, and tigers staring at visitors from behind bars.

According to the video, the zoo houses more than 6,000 animals of about 650 different species in 60 animal shed and aquariums.

North Korea launches missiles into sea

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 28 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — North Korea launched four Scud missiles into the sea off its eastern coast Thursday, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

The missiles were fired in the direction of Russia and fell into the sea, according to the Pentagon, which described the launch as a very low-level matter.

The missiles were fired just days after the start of annual joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States that North Korea opposes. The joint military exercises routinely spark tension between North Korea, South Korea and the United States.

For example, last year’s exercises triggered weeks of heightened tensions between the nations and North Korean threats of nuclear war.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries have not been specific about where they are conducting their drills.

The South Korean Defense Ministry said that the North had fired the Scuds in a northeasterly direction and that they probably fell into North Korean waters of the East Sea, which is also known as the Sea of Japan.

It was the first time North Korea had fired Scud missiles, which have a range that covers the whole of the Korean Peninsula, since 2009, South Korea said.

“We consider it to be threatening and a military provocation,” said South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Ming-seok, although he acknowledged the firings may have been a test launch or part of military drills.

Foreign policy experts say the North Korean missile firings may not herald a repeat of last year’s saber rattling from Pyongyang, which included threats of preemptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea and the declaration that the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953 is null and void.

North Korea tested a multistage rocket with possible intercontinental potential in December 2012, and carried out a third nuclear test in February 2013. It was then stung by fierce international criticism and sanctions.

It reacted angrily when 2013’s joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. involved stealth bombers simulating bombing attacks.

The conditions of Thursday’s missile launch are different.

“It may be little more than regular military testing,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense and foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution. “I’m not persuaded it’s a big deal or even a medium big deal, though.”

The launch may also be an attempt by North Korea to remind the world and its own people that it has muscle, too.

Most observers say North Korea is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, but it does have plenty of conventional military firepower, including medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry high explosives for hundreds of miles.

“North Korea’s missile launch is merely part of their ongoing efforts to demonstrate to the world, and more importantly to their own people, what they are capable of. It is more showmanship than meaningful geopolitics,” David Rothkopf, editor of Foreign Policy magazine, said Thursday. “It is not a surprise, and we should expect more of the same so long as this regime is in place.”

Earlier this week, South Korea said a North Korean patrol boat strayed over the maritime border between the two countries several times. It eventually returned to the North’s side of the border after warnings from South Korea.

Such infringements happen periodically, according to the South Korean Defense Ministry.

(Reuters) – North Korean security chiefs and possibly even Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un himself should face international justice for ordering systematic torture, starvation and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities, U.N. investigators said on Monday.

The investigators told Kim in a letter they were advising the United Nations to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to make sure any culprits “including possibly yourself” were held accountable.

The unprecedented public rebuke and warning to a head of state by a U.N. inquiry is likely to further antagonize Kim and complicate efforts to persuade him to rein in his isolated country’s nuclear weapons program and belligerent confrontations with South Korea and the West.

North Korea “categorically and totally” rejected the accusations set out in a 372-page report, saying they were based on material faked by hostile forces backed by the United States, the European Union and Japan.

Michael Kirby, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, said he expected his group’s findings to “galvanize action on the part of the international community”.

“These are not the occasional wrongs that can be done by officials everywhere in the world, they are wrongs against humanity, they are wrongs that shock the consciousness of humanity,” Kirby, a former chief justice of Australia, told journalists.

Referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court is seen as unlikely given China’s probable veto of any such move in the U.N. Security Council, diplomats told Reuters.

“Another possibility is establishment of an ad hoc tribunal like the tribunal on the former Yugoslavia,” Kirby said.

The U.N. investigators also told Kim’s main ally China that it might be “aiding and abetting crimes against humanity” by sending migrants and defectors back to North Korea to face torture or execution, a charge that Chinese officials dismissed.

“STRIKINGLY SIMILAR” TO NAZI ERA

The findings came out of a year-long investigation involving public testimony by defectors, including former prison camp guards, at hearings in South Korea, Japan, Britain and the United States.

Defectors included Shin Dong-hyuk, who gave harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp. As a 13-year-old, he informed a prison guard of a plot by his mother and brother to escape and both were executed, according to a book on his life called “Escape from Camp 14”.

Kirby said that the crimes the team had catalogued were reminiscent of those committed by Nazis during World War Two.

“Some of them are strikingly similar,” he told Reuters.

“Testimony was given … in relation to the political prison camps of large numbers of people who were malnourished, who were effectively starved to death and then had to be disposed of in pots, burned and then buried … It was the duty of other prisoners in the camps to dispose of them,” he said.

The number of North Korean officials potentially guilty of the worst crimes, would be “running into the hundreds”, he said.

The independent investigators’ report cited crimes including murder, torture, rape, abductions, starvation and executions.

“The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world,” it said.

North Korea’s diplomatic mission in Geneva dismissed the findings. “We will continue to strongly respond to the end to any attempt of regime-change and pressure under the pretext of ‘human rights protection’,” it said.

The two-page North Korean statement, in English, said the report was an “instrument of a political plot aimed at sabotaging the socialist system” and defaming the country.

Violations listed in the document and forwarded to Pyongyang for comment several weeks ago, “do not exist in our country”.

“DELIBERATE STARVATION”

The investigators said abuses were mainly perpetrated by officials in structures that ultimately reported to Kim – state security, the Ministry of People’s Security, the army, the judiciary and Workers’ Party of Korea.

“It is open to inference that the officials are, in some instances, acting under your personal control,” Kirby wrote in the three-page letter to Kim published as part of the report.

The team recommended targeted U.N. sanctions against civil officials and military commanders suspected of the worst crimes. It did not reveal any names, but said it had compiled a database of suspects from evidence and testimony.

Pyongyang has used food as “a means of control over the population” and “deliberate starvation” to punish political and ordinary prisoners, according to the team of 12 investigators.

Pervasive state surveillance quashed all dissent, it said.

North Korea’s extermination of political prisoners over the past five decades might amount to genocide, the report added, although the legal definition of genocide normally refers to the killing of large parts of a national, ethnic or religious group.

Kirby warned China’s charge d’affaires in Geneva, Wu Haitao, in a Dec 16 letter that the forced repatriations of North Korean migrants and defectors might amount to “the aiding and abetting (of) crimes against humanity”, the said.

Wu, in a reply also published in the report, said the fact that some of the North Korean migrants regularly managed to get back into China after their return showed that the allegations of torture were not true.

Human Rights Watch said it hoped the report would open the U.N. Security Council’s eyes to the scale of atrocities.

“By focusing only on the nuclear threat in North Korea, the Security Council is overlooking the crimes of North Korean leaders who have overseen a brutal system of gulags, public executions, disappearances, and mass starvation,” said executive director Kenneth Roth.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens) nL6N0LM24B

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