North Korea

A once-in-a-generation gathering of the North Korean ruling party is happening in Pyongyang, where leader Kim Jong Un has laid out his plans for the country's future. But the new vision for North Korea — parallel economic and nuclear development — looks a lot like the old one.

In a broadcast shown on state television, Kim spoke to thousands of the ruling party elite for a marathon three hours on Saturday, with occasional interruptions of frenzied applause from the audience.

At a rare political event in Pyongyang, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un told party members that the country would not carry out a nuclear strike unless its sovereignty is violated.

This comes after the country has carried out a series of provocative weapons tests. During his remarks at the Workers Party Conference, Kim vowed to push forward with nuclear development despite international pressure.

NPR's Elise Hu tells our Newscast unit that this is "the highest level political convening in North Korea and the first of its kind since 1980." Here's more from Elise:

North Korea's Supreme Court has sent another U.S. citizen to prison, sentencing a Korean-American man to 10 years in prison and hard labor over espionage charges. Kim Dong-chul, 62, is reportedly a former resident of Fairfax, Va.

North Korea claims that it has conducted a successful test of an engine for an intercontinental ballistic missile, which it says would boost its ability to carry out a nuclear attack on the U.S.

It's not possible to verify the claim, which follows a series of weapons tests from the isolated nation.

South Korea is a place where appearance really matters. The country's cosmetic surgery prowess is known the world over. It's one of the world's top plastic surgery markets, and by some estimates, more cosmetic procedures are performed here per capita than anywhere else on the planet — mostly facial enhancements such as Botox injections, eyelid jobs or nose jobs.

North Korea fired five short-range missiles into the sea Monday, the South Korean military says.

NPR's Elise Hu in Seoul reports that these are the latest in a string of similar launches, despite repeated calls from the international community to halt them.

"The missiles were fired near the eastern coastal city of Hamhung, and analysts say the short-range projectiles traveled about 120 miles," Elise tells our Newscast unit.

What started out as a budget tour to Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, has stretched into an extended stay for 21-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier. State media reported Wednesday that North Korea's highest court convicted Warmbier of subversion and sentenced him to 15 years of prison and hard labor.

The offense? According to an apparent confession, Warmbier tried to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel.

The U.S. and South Korea have started their largest-ever annual joint military exercises amid heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula — and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threatened to respond to the exercises with a nuclear offensive.

The U.S. says the Korean People's Army in North Korea was informed about the drills and their dates by the United Nations Command. The maneuvers include a computer simulation of military attacks, as well as maneuvers in the field.

From Seoul, NPR's Elise Hu reports that:

On the heels of new U.N. sanctions that could crimp its economic dealings with China, North Korea has fired six projectiles — possibly rockets or missiles — into the sea on the country's eastern coast, South Korean officials say.

The projectiles that were fired Thursday flew for at least 60 miles before hitting the water, according to media reports in South Korea.

From Seoul, NPR's Elise Hu reports:

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions on North Korea on Wednesday, in response to a recent nuclear test and rocket launch that violated U.N. resolutions on the country's military activities.

In the wake of North Korea's nuclear weapons test last month and its long-range missile test in early February, the U.S. and China have agreed on a draft U.N. resolution imposing new sanctions on Pyongyang. North Korea is already under a raft of international sanctions, but the new proposal would tighten them and impose new bans.

About 4,000 soldiers from Fort Hood, Texas, have landed in South Korea in the past few weeks, to serve along the border of the two Koreas. As policy makers contend with the thorny security challenges of the region, soldiers are adjusting to more day-to-day challenges.

Fresh off the planes from central Texas, the men and women of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team say it's the snow that made the most noticeable first impression.

As the international community grapples with how best to stymie North Korea's nuclear development, South Korea is making one move on its own. It's shutting down the last remaining vestige of inter-Korean cooperation, the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

The special zone, located north of the border just six miles inside of North Korea, employs an estimated 55,000 North Koreans. South Korea's government and industries pay to operate the park. A total of 124 South Korean companies run businesses and factories there, mostly making goods like shoes and clothing.

"Irresponsible," "senseless," "deplorable," "destabilizing," "totally unacceptable."

North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket has filled the isolated nation with pride — and sparked fierce censure from the rest of the world.

As we reported yesterday, the launch on Sunday morning local time arrives just a month after a nuclear test that had already raised tensions in the area:

On the fifth floor of South Korea's sprawling National Library is a place far more fascinating than its name suggests: The North Korea Information Center.

Here you can read every edition of North Korea's national newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, dating to its first publication. Or peruse a collection of 100,000 North Korean books and videos — fiction, nonfiction and the complete teachings of the autocratic dynasty that runs the country.

North Korean state media said Friday that the country has detained a U.S. student from the University of Virginia for "anti-republic activities."

The state-run agency, KCNA, said the student, Otto Frederick Warmbier, entered North Korea as a tourist but "with a goal to wreck the foundation of state unity ... under the manipulation of the U.S. government."

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul said it was aware of the report.

The University of Virginia's website lists an undergraduate with that name at the McIntire School of Commerce, the university's business school.

North Korea is getting pressure from its one and only ally, China, to tone down its latest blustery rhetoric and not to conduct a planned space launch or possible nuclear test.

Eric Bridiers / U. S. Mission General

"Early in 2015, Shin Dong-hyuk changed his story.”

The State Department says a U.S. envoy will travel to North Korea this week to seek the release of an American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the authoritarian country.

The visit by Bob King, special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, will be the first public visit by a senior administration official to North Korea in two years.

A North Korean media outlet has released footage of an interview with Kenneth Bae, the Lynnwood man sentenced to 15 years hard labor for what the regime called hostile acts against the state.

In the undated footage released via CNN, Bae said he is mainly working in farm fields, but only for eight hours a day. Bae stated his handlers are “considerate, so I’m not working too hard."

Associated Press

North Korea says an American citizen sentenced to 15 years hard labor has started life at a "special prison."

No other details were immediately available Wednesday about Kenneth Bae. Pyongyang said earlier this week that Bae informed his family on Friday that he couldn't appeal his April 30 sentence and that he asked his family to urge Washington to push for his amnesty.

Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press

North Korea says a Korean-American man sentenced last week to 15 years' hard labor smuggled in unspecified inflammatory literature and tried to establish a base for anti-Pyongyang activities at a hotel in the border city of Rason.

The statement late Thursday from an unidentified Supreme Court spokesman provides the most in-depth look so far of Pyongyang's allegations against Kenneth Bae. But it is still short on specific details. Bae hasn't made a public statement.

Associated Press

NBA star Dennis Rodman, who recently made waves with his visit to North Korea, has called on the country’s leader to free the American man being held captive.

“I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him 'Kim', to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” Rodman tweeted Tuesday.

Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press

North Korea on Sunday revealed a few more details about a Korean-American recently sentenced to 15 years' hard labor, saying he entered the country with a disguised identity. Pyongyang also rejected speculation that it intends to use Kenneth Bae as a bargaining chip.

Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press

The U.S. is calling for North Korea to grant an amnesty for the immediate release of a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years hard labor for "hostile acts" against the state.

The 44-year-old Kenneth Bae of Lynnwood, Wash. is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released without serving out their terms, some after trips to Pyongyang by prominent Americans, including former presidents.

Controversy surrounding travel to North Korea by a private delegation, including Google executive Eric Schmidt and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, is bringing attention to the story of a Lynnwood man who's been detained in North Korea for more than two months.

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