0 Chairman Kim Jong-il made a public appearance April 3 for the first time in 50 days when he visited the Kim Hyoung-jik Military Medical College in Pyongyang. His appearance was timed with the closing of the ROK-U.S. military exercises.
0 North Korea announced the issuance of the "People's Livelihood Bond" on March 27. The bond with an element of lottery was apparently intended to tide over financial difficulties and to sustain its economic reform measures launched last July by attracting idle funds from the population.
- Since the announcement, North Korea exhorted the masses to voluntarily participate in the bond drive with the vice president of the central bank appealing for patriotism through media interviews and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
0 North Korea held a nationwide meeting of railway workers. Hong Seong-nam, Kim Il-cheol and other key party, administration and military leaders attended the meeting held on April 1-2. Modernization and IT were emphasized in the meeting in preparation for the project of linking the trans-Korean and trans-Siberian railways.
0 North Korea apparently tried to play down concerns about its worsening economic conditions reported by the Western media, when bureau chief Choi Hong-kyu of the State Planning Commission stressed in an interview with the newspaper Joseon Sinbo that there were considerable achievements in the agricultural and industrial sectors since the July 2002 "economic management improvement measures."
- It also said April 1 that a "three-year plan to solve fuel and energy problems" will be formulated and implemented beginning this year. It was a report worth paying attention to see whether it would indeed lead to a long-term economic plan.
0 North Korea revealed its effort to train religious personnel, when the Voice of Russia Radio reported March 31 that four graduates of Kim Il-sung University will study theology in Moscow.
Relations with South Korea
0 A temporary halt to inter-Korean dialogue at government levels appears inevitable as North Korea boycotted the 10th inter-Korean ministerial talks scheduled for April 7. Earlier, its delegates failed to come to working-level contacts involving the system of economic cooperation and shipping between South and North Korea.
0 North Korea unleashed a barrage of denunciations to the South Korean military authorities through its Rodong Sinmun newspaper and other media March 29, warning that the joint ROK-U.S. army corps-level field maneuvers March 27-April 2 following a joint military exercises will have a negative impact on the inter-Korean relationship.
0 With regard to South Korea's decision to dispatch non-combat troops to Iraq, North Korea, through the Rodong Sinmun newspaper on March 30, strongly condemned Seoul for a "criminal act guiding the United States' war of aggression." Meanwhile it defended the move in the South opposing to the dispatch of troops.
- In connection with the National Assembly's passage April 2 of the bill authorizing the troop dispatch to Iraq, North Korea, through its Rodong Sinmun's commentary two days later, denounced it as a "betrayal running counter to popular sentiment."
0 In reference to the US statement on the necessary of regime change in Iraq, North Korea, through its foreign ministry spokesman on March 29, condemned it as a "paragon of state terrorism." It also strongly accused the annual human rights reports issued recently by the U.S. state department through a statement of the spokesman of the foreign ministry on April 3.
- The Rodong Sinmun, likening America's action to a drama, contended March 28 that following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the United States will "open Act 3 on the Korean peninsula" in the wake of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
0 With regard to Japan's launch of reconnaissance satellites March 28, North Korea's foreign ministry attributed to Japan for the resultant tense situation. At the same time, Pyongyang denounced the launch as a violation of the spirit of the North Korea-Japan Pyongyang Declaration and an invitation of new arms race in Northeast Asia.