o North Korea convened the sixth session of the 10th Supreme People's Assembly in the Mansudae Parliamentary Hall on March 26. It approved the accounts settlement report for the 2002 national budget and passed the 2003 national budget. The assembly also passed laws governing military service, urban planning, river, and accounting, which were adopted by the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly prior to the assembly session.
* Chairman Kim Jong-il, Jo Myung-rok, Kim Young-choon and other military leaders were conspicuously absent from the session. Unlike in previous years, the premier's report did not contain the cabinet's performance for the previous year and the tasks for the current year. The report did not specify financial figures for the projects, either. It only disclosed the component ratio for some expense items. But, it announced a plan to issue public bonds.
o In their respective statements, each of North Korea's political parties and organizations urged support for military-first politics as well as the implementation of mutual assistance between the people of North and South Korea. It said the mutual assistance was in compliance with an appeal made by a "combined meeting of the administration, political parties and associations" on March 18. The move was apparently intended to further whip up anti-American, anti-war sentiment in South Korea and to endorse the combined meeting's resolution.
- The parties and organizations that issued statements in support of the appeal between March 21 and 27 included the Korean Social Democratic Party, the Chondoist Chong-u Party, the General Federation of Trade Unions, the Union of Agricultural Workers, the Korean Buddhists Federation, and the Korean Christians Federation.
o North Korea convened a national meeting of workers in the light industry sector March 23-24 and called on the participants to supply raw materials for themselves, while stressing the need for a stepped up research on consumer goods and factory automation.
o The education ministry intends to strengthen individual capabilities for the cause of the regime by revising school curricula for the new semester, in which education for political ideology and information technology will be emphasized.
Relations with South Korea
o Denouncing that South Korea issued "DEFCON-2 (defense condition)" alert, which was not true, North Korea unilaterally postponed an inter-Korean economic cooperation meeting and a working-level shipping contact scheduled for March 26. The move, made in the form of a statement by the North-side chairman of the South-North Korean committee for the promotion of the economy March 22, was apparently intended to shift the responsibility for heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula to the Southern side and at the same time to express Pyongyang's strong displeasure against Seoul's support for the United States military campaign in Iraq.
- Through a statement issued by the spokesman of "Minhwahyop" March 23, North Korea repeated its denunciation of South Korea in connection with the DEFCON-2 episode and urged the entire people on the peninsula to support its call for mutual assistance and to launch anti-U.S., anti-war campaigns.
- In addition, North Korea unleashed a barrage of condemnations against South Korean authorities over the comment made by the Ministry of Unification, the joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises and the government's effort to obtain a parliamentary approval of a bill on the dispatch of non-combat troops in support of US campaign in Iraq.
o Despite its postponement of government-level meetings, however, North Korea has made it clear it would go ahead, as scheduled, with inter-Korean exchanges in the private sector. It allowed the visit to the North by Good Neighbors Korea March 21-24 and an inter-Korean unification meeting by Korean scholars residing abroad in Pyongyang March 26-27.
- In its 11th general meeting held March 20, the North-side Headquarters of the National Alliance for the Country's Unification (Beommin-ryeon) set the June 15-August 15 period as the "Period for Defense of Independence and Peace through Mutual Assistance of the Korean People."
o Regarding the war in Iraq, North Korea was reporting in detail every day about anti-American, anti-war opinions brewing in the international community. It said through its Central Broadcasting Station March 26 that Iraq's regular troops and militias were bringing good results through guerrilla warfare.
o North Korea notified the United Nations Command March 26 that it would be absent from the Panmunjom liaison officers' meeting on the ground that South Korea and the United States were conducting joint military exercises. Further it indicated the possibility of a "new important step" related to the Korean Armistice Agreement.