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N. Korean officials calling heir apparent `young leader`

N. Korean officials calling heir apparent `young leader`

Posted November. 18, 2010 13:19,   


An American scholar who recently visited North Korea says the Stalinist country’s officials have no problem calling heir apparent Kim Jong Un “young leader” or “young general.”

Jack Pritchard, president of the Washington-based Korea Economic Institute, told South Korean correspondents in Washington Tuesday, “I felt the power transfer process is going well and that the North has significant confidence rather than anxiety and tension over the power transfer.”

He said, however, that he could not see pictures of Kim at major public facilities and hotels.

Pritchard also said, “North Korea is pursuing the construction of a 100-megawatt experimental light-water reactor in Yongbyon slated for completion in 2012.”

“The construction site for the reactor is nearby the cooling tower that was destroyed, and the initial construction is underway.”

Having visited the North 11 times over the past 10 years, Pritchard said, “The building for the reactor seems to be 70-75 feet wide and 60 feet high.”

“The person responsible for the construction said the North wants to prove its construction capability by building the reactor on its own,” he said. “The North wants to make the reactor a symbol of its rise as a powerful country in 2012, the centennial anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung.”

Pritchard was pessimistic, however, over the prospects of the reactor’s completion by 2012.

He stayed in the North Nov. 2-6 and held talks with North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan and high-ranking diplomat Ri Gun, saying, “I felt that the power transfer to Kim Jong Un is proceeding smoothly.”

North Korean officials remain hostile toward South Korea, he added. “Ri Gun criticized the Lee Myung-bak administration’s policy toward North Korea as hostile to the North.”

The Lee administration calls the period under the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations the "lost decade, but Ri said the time under the Lee administration will be the "lost five years" in inter-Korean relations, Pritchard said.

On the overall atmosphere in Pyongyang, Pritchard said, “Compared to a year ago, it seemed more people drove cars and used mobile phones,” adding, “If you see Pyongyang alone, North Korea seems to be a vibrant country instead of one suffering from international sanctions.”

“North Korean officials wanted to know what impact the results of the U.S. mid-term elections will have on U.S. policy toward the North and on bilateral relations,” he said. “In particular, they wanted to know about the Tea Party movement.”