Summer camp reopens
After some on-the-spot guidance from the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and a major face-lift, the Songdowon International Children’s Camp reopened yesterday for this year’s flock of foreign campers — more than 300 young children and teenagers from Russia, China, Vietnam, Ireland and Tanzania. The campers spend the eight days cooking, swimming, boating and mingling with their North Korean peers. Though heavily subsidized by the government, the camp — plus a tour of Pyongyang — costs about US$270 per foreign child. The camp, which has been operating for nearly 30 years, was originally intended mainly to deepen relations with friendly countries in the communist or non-aligned world, but officials say they are willing to accept youth from anywhere — even the US. The camp gives the participants an opportunity to see a country that remains a mystery to most outsiders, and Pyongyang a chance to show off the best it can offer — sleeping in air-conditioned rooms with TVs and video games is a luxury most North Korean children cannot normally experience.
Two soldiers commit suicide
The military yesterday confirmed the apparent suicides of two army privates, raising fresh questions over the deployment of young conscripts in frontline units after a deadly shooting spree last month. The two soldiers, identified by their surnames, Shin and Park, were both found hanged in their barracks on Sunday in separate locations near the heavily militarized border with North Korea, an army spokesman said. Both men, who were in their early 20s, had been placed on a list of soldiers requiring special monitoring due to concerns over their mental stability. The army spokesman said an investigation was under way in both cases. The suicides followed an incident on June 21 in which a 22-year-old sergeant surnamed Lim opened fire on members of his own unit at a border guard post, killing five and wounding seven. Lim later told interrogators that he had snapped because he felt humiliated by the other soldiers, who mocked him and drew cartoons depicting him as SpongeBob SquarePants.
UN sanctions arms ship
The UN imposed sanctions on the shipping company that operates a ship seized by Panama in July last year for carrying undeclared military equipment from Cuba, ordering all countries to freeze its assets. The UN Security Council committee monitoring sanctions on the country announced late on Monday that it had added Ocean Maritime Management Co, which is headquartered in Pyongyang and operates the vessel Chong Chon Gang, to its sanctions blacklist. Panamanian authorities stopped the Chong Chon Gang as it tried to enter the Panama Canal because they suspected it was transporting drugs. Instead, they found two Cuban fighter jets in perfect condition, missiles and live munitions beneath its cargo of sugar.
Driver kills sleeping pilgrims
A speeding truck driver yesterday ran over and killed at least 12 Hindu pilgrims who were sleeping on the side of a busy road in the northeast, police said. Four women were among the victims, while another 18 were injured in the pre-dawn accident on a national highway in the Aurangabad District of Bihar State. Upendra Kumar Sharma, superintendent of police for Aurangabad, said more than 50 pilgrims were resting for the night after visiting a temple in neighboring Jharkhand State when the truck driver lost control.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big