April 12th, 2012
01:22 AM ET

No sign of North Korean rocket launch on 1st day of window

The first opportunity for North Korea to launch its controversial rocket passed uneventfully Thursday, keeping the region on tenterhooks for at least another day.

As the launch window opened Thursday morning, the reclusive, nuclear-armed regime's neighbors were nervously watching for developments from the launch site, which is in a remote area in the northwest of the country.

Japanese missile defense systems scanned the skies above Tokyo and Okinawa. Japan has threatened to shoot down the North Korean rocket if it is seen threatening its territory.

International journalists in Pyongyang were taken on an official visit to a conference that had no connection to the launch. North Korean state television made no mention of the rocket, which the country says is necessary to put a weather satellite in orbit.

North Korea has said that it plans to carry out the launch sometime between Thursday and Monday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and noon (6 p.m.-11 p.m. ET Wednesday-Sunday).

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Filed under: Japan • Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • South Korea • Space
January 20th, 2012
02:34 AM ET

South Korea to allow food aid to North for first time since Kim's death

The South Korean government on Friday approved the first shipment of food aid to North Korea since the death of dictator Kim Jong Il last month.

The South Korean Unification Ministry has given the green light to the sending on January 27 of 180 tons of flour to elementary schools and day care centers by the Korea Peace Foundation, Kim Hyung-suk, a ministry spokesman, said at a briefing.

North Korea has agreed to receive the shipment, according to the ministry.

Pyongyang announced Kim's death on December 19, setting off speculation about the stability of the reclusive state and its possible consequences for the broader region. Kim's youngest son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, has replaced him as the regime's "supreme leader."

The country's dysfunctional economy, hurt by failed policies and international sanctions, has resulted in famines and widespread malnutrition during the past two decades. Other countries and international organizations have repeatedly stepped in with food aid, most recently to alleviate chronic malnutrition among the most vulnerable groups.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • South Korea
January 12th, 2012
12:23 AM ET

Kim Jong Il's body to lie in state in same palace as father's

The body of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il will lie in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, which houses the corpse of his father, Kim Il Sung, North Korean state-run media reported Thursday.

The secretive state also plans to erect a statue of Kim Jong Il and build towers across the country to symbolize his "immortality," the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported, citing orders from the leaders of the ruling Workers Party.

North Korea announced Kim Jong Il's death on December 19, putting the region on edge as observers speculated about the nuclear-armed regime's stability and future direction.

Pyongyang held an elaborately choreographed funeral procession and memorial ceremony the following week that served to underline the elevation of Kim Jong Un - the youngest son and chosen successor of Kim Jong Il - to the position of "supreme leader" of the country.

On Thursday, the regime also announced that February 16, Kim Jong Il's birthday, will henceforth be known as "the Day of the Shining Star." His father's birthday is dubbed "the Day of the Sun" in the North Korean calendar.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • World
January 10th, 2012
03:28 AM ET

North Korea plans prisoner release to mark dead leaders' birthdays

North Korea said Tuesday that it would release an unspecified number of prisoners in February to mark the birthdays of the two dictators who ruled the reclusive nation for a total of more than 60 years.

The amnesty of "convicts," ordered by a parliamentary decree, will begin February 1, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

KCNA said the move ties in with the centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the revered founder of North Korea who ran the country between 1945 and 1994, and the 70th birthday of his son, Kim Jong Il, who succeeded him and remained in power until his death last month.

Leadership of the repressive regime has now passed to a third generation of the Kim family: Kim Jong Un, the youngest son and chosen successor of Kim Jong Il.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • World
December 30th, 2011
02:02 AM ET

North Korea says it won't deal with South Korean government

North Korea said Friday that it remained steadfast in its refusal to engage with the current South Korean government, dismissing the prospect of a shift in relations with Seoul after a dynastic succession in Pyongyang.

"We solemnly declare with confidence that the South Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change" from North Korea, the country's National Defense Commission said in a statement reported by Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The statement came after two days of elaborate ceremonies in Pyongyang that honored Kim Jong Il, who died earlier this month, and underlined the rise of his son and chosen successor, Kim Jong Un, to the position of "supreme leader" of the secretive state.


Filed under: Kim Jong Il • North Korea • Uncategorized • World
December 20th, 2011
11:09 AM ET

The day North Korea revealed its 'hidden prince'

Editor's Note: CNN producer Adam Reiss traveled to North Korea with Alina Cho in October 2010 for an elaborate celebration for North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and what would become the official introduction of his son, Kim Jong-Un. Reiss looks back at their rare trip inside the country.

We had been pushing hard for years to gain access to North Korea to report on life inside the secretive country when we finally got the call in October 2010 that we would be able to visit. We had less than 24 hours to get the proper visas and credentials for what was being billed as several of the largest military parades and mass games in North Korean history.

Alina Cho first visited the county in 2008 with the New York Philharmonic, which had been invited to play an historic concert there. Thrilled by the rare access, she was determined to go again. As a producer with CNN, I was looking forward to what would be an unforgettable trip to this hermit nation.

Our government minders were on hand as we arrived at Pyongyang airport, and they followed us everywhere we went. They told us who we could and could not talk to, and where we were allowed to shoot. One of the minders was the same one Alina had on her previous trip, and the rapport and familiarity certainly were beneficial.

We were whisked to Pyongyang’s largest stadium for a magnificent display of color and pageantry, as thousands of North Korean performers staged a show for the benefit of their "dear leader" Kim Jong-Il and his heir apparent Kim Jong-Un. It was an unofficial and elaborate coming out party for the hidden prince, the first glimpse of him in action after being named a four-star general.

It truly was a sight to behold as they danced and moved to synchronized music and lights. Security for each event was extremely tight, with every single item in our possession thoroughly searched. We noticed even foreign dignitaries were having their cigarette packs searched.

Archive: North Korea's leader, presumptive heir attend huge parade

When we reached the city, Alina said she was struck by the traffic lights on the streets which she had not seen on her last visit. There were even traffic attendants directing what few cars were on the roads. In addition, more North Koreans were speaking into cell phones. Only domestic calls are allowed, but nevertheless it was amazing to see.

“It was simply jaw-dropping to see this, common in western society," she remembers. "But here it was a huge leap forward."


December 20th, 2011
04:46 AM ET

South Korea expresses sympathy to North Korean people

The South Korean government expressed its sympathy to the people of North Korea following the death of Kim Jong Il, South Korea's unification minister said Tuesday.

In a televised press conference, Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik also said Seoul will not send a government delegation to North Korea. However, the South will allow bereaved family members of the late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and the late Hyundai Group Chairman Chung Mong-hun to visit the North in return for a visit by North Korean delegates to the funerals of the two South Korean figures.

In addition, the South Korean government asked church groups to refrain from lighting Christmas trees near the demilitarized zone between the two countries due to the North's mourning period. The Christmas trees have been deemed a symbol of psychological warfare, and North Korea threatened in the past to retaliate if the South lights the trees.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un, the son and successor of the recently deceased North Korean leader –viewed his father's body in Pyongyang on Tuesday, state-run media said, as the world watched for clues on how the leadership transition will play out in the insular dictatorship.

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Filed under: Kim Jong Il • Kim Jong Un • North Korea • South Korea • World