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North Korea: Update. A press report from a reporter in North Korea who went to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) confirmed that North Korean front line soldiers are engaged in spring planting. Farmers in Panmunjom-ri, the North Korean village inside the DMZ, were busy planting rice, cabbage, soybeans and radish in fields surrounded by barbed wire and anti-tank barriers.

The reporter saw soldiers helping the farmers, but military escorts assured him they were ready for war on short notice.

Comment: This is an annual practice because all the units in the armed services must provide a significant part of their own rations. The significance is that the activity is normal, though it has begun late because planting weather arrived late.

Both North and South Korean farmers cultivate fields inside the DMZ, which is two kilometers wide on each side of the Military Demarcation Line. The farmers on both sides are trusted veterans who will not defect. The barbed wire and tank barriers are always present.

The Rear. Anecdotal reporting from provinces along the China border also report normal conditions, except for mandatory Saturday lectures on the threat of war and North Korea's superiority over South Korea. The reports are so trite and false, according to the sources, that even the Party officials who are supposed to give the lectures are embarrassed. The workers complain that the official descriptions of how well off North Koreans are compared to South Koreans do not explain the continued shortages and hard living conditions in the North.

Some party cadres reportedly have refused to give the prescribed lectures. The sources reported no one expects a war.

South Korea-North Korea: South Korea offered to hold talks with the North regarding the status and future of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. "We make an official offer to the DPRK to hold a working-level talk and provide humanitarian aid to South Korean workers in the Kaesong complex. DPRK (North Korea) should reply to our offer until 26 April morning," the Unification Ministry said in a formal statement on Thursday, 265 April.

"We will have to take important measures if DPRK refuses the offer," he added.

Comment: This is the second offer for talks. South Korean businessmen made the first, informal offer shortly after the North Koreans closed the complex on 9 April. All 123 plants are idle and only 176 South Koreans remain.

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