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N. Korea halts newspaper exchange with South

The Straits Times, 13 October 2000

SEOUL -- North Korea stopped a daily newspaper exchange with South Korea only five days after starting it, Seoul officials said yesterday.

In a show of warming ties, the two Koreas began a daily exchange of 70 copies of each other's newspapers earlier this month through the border village of Panmunjom.

But the exchange was suspended last Friday, the South Korean government said.

We don't know what the reason is, said Mr Kim In Ho, an official at Seoul's Unification Ministry.

North Korean liaison officials at Panmunjom only told us that they had an order from Pyongyang to halt the exchange, he said.

One possible motive was that North Korean officials were upset by South Korean newspaper reports of protests against the North's leader, Mr Kim Jong Il.

Last Friday's editions of South Korean newspapers carried stories and photographs of about 200 Korean War veterans burning an effigy of the leader during a demonstration.

The veterans were protesting a planned visit to South Korea by Kim Jong Il next spring.

They argued that he should not be allowed to visit unless he apologises for violent acts committed against South Korean civilians.

Three days after the protest, North Korea's state news agency, KCNA, vehemently accused the Seoul government of giving tacit approval to the demonstrators.

North Koreans are extremely sensitive about media criticism of their leader whom they revere as a virtual demigod. --AP