November 25, 2015 11:19
Top North Korean brass who were responsible for the box mine attacks in the demilitarized zone in August have been given the title of "heroes," the National Intelligence Service here said Tuesday.
The NIS told the National Assembly that North Korean Army Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so and Workers Party Secretary Kim Yang-gon, who represented the North during cross-border talks after the box mine attack, were given the accolades for persuading the South to halt propaganda broadcasts along the border "without bloodshed."
North Korea also refers to the high-level talks in late August as a "great victory," the NIS added.
A government source here said, "This shows how much North Korea feared the propaganda broadcasts and how hard they tried to halt them."
In retaliation against the box mine attacks that maimed two South Korean soldiers, Seoul resumed propaganda broadcasts in August via loudspeakers set up in 11 locations along the border. They blared out five to 10 minutes of South Korean news and denunciations of the North Korean regime.
But the high-level talks ended the tense standoff and the broadcasts.
The NIS said that Kim Yong-chol, the chief of North Korea's General Bureau of Reconnaissance who planned the box mine attack, retained his title of general and attended a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the North's Workers Party on Oct. 10.
Rim Kwang-il, an officer in charge of training special forces troops and involved in planting the box mines in the demilitarized zone, appears to have been appointed the North's new head of military operations, according to the NIS.
Some pundits expected North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to punish Kim Yong-chol and other brass for heightening cross-border tensions, but the reverse happened.
Meanwhile, Workers Party secretary Choe Ryong-hae, who is believed to have been demoted again after his name was omitted from an important roster, has apparently been sent off to a remote collective farm for reeducation.
His mistake was overseeing the faulty construction of a power plant that was recently completed in Ryanggang Province, the NIS said.
"The power plant was a key public project that marked the 70th anniversary of the Workers Party and Kim Jong-un was particularly interested in it," a government source here said.
"Members of youth groups were roped into the project, and after faulty construction was discovered, the blame was passed all the way up the chain of command to Choe Ryong-hae, who was in charge."
The NIS said the North began monitoring all high-ranking officials for possible misconduct after it announced plans for the next Workers Party assembly in May 2016.
The NIS said North Korea is trying to send around 3,000 more workers abroad to work in construction sites, hospitals and IT companies in order to earn badly needed foreign currency.
An estimated 58,000 North Koreans work overseas in prison-like conditions and send back foreign currency. Some 1,250 North Korean medical staff work in 26 countries including Africa and remit some US$15 million a year to the impoverished state.
The NIS said North Korea sold a tonic in Tanzania which is supposed to boost men's stamina but contains 185 times more mercury than the permissible level.
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