Kim Jong Il begins tour of Buryatia

ULAN UDE, August 23 (Itar-Tass) — The special train of Kim Jong Il arrived in Ulan Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, on Tuesday morning. The train stopped at Ulan Ude railway terminal. “A welcoming ceremony for the North Korean leader has been arranged so as to avoid complicattion in the functioning of the railway terminal,” an informed source told Itar-Tass.

A programme for Kim Jong Il’s stay in Buryatia is kept secret. However, as sources familiar with the preparation of the meeting point out and, judging from preparatory arrangements in Buryatia on previous days, Kim’s programme may provide for a tour of Ulan Ude-based industrial enterprises and Lake Baikal.

In particular, Buryatia media report that security measures have been enhanced in the Baikal settlement of Turka where the first phase of the infrastructure of the Baikalskaya Gavan (Baikal Harbour) special tourist zone has been built. Oleg Kostin, General Director of the Special Economic Zones public joint-stock company, arrived in the tourist zone on Monday for a working trip.

According to unofficial data, on the first day the Norht Korean leader will be accompanied in Buryatia by Viktor Ishayev, Russian presidential plenipotentiary representative in the Far Eastern Federal District. However, it has become known that Viktor Tolokonsky, presidential plenipotentiary representative in the Siberian Federal District, also arrives in Burytia.

Informed sources say Kim Jong Il may visit the restricted-access garrison Sosnovy Bor (pine forest) near Ulan Ude. The area was once the site of the “eastern” headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces of the USSR. All the necessary infrastructure to receive very important persons has been preserved in the garrison.

There is no accreditation of journalists for the coverage of Kim’s tour of Buryatia. An official in the press service of the Buryatia governent said the press service does not engage in arrangements for the coverage of the North Korean leader’s visit.

Economic and cultural contacts between Buryatia and the DPRK cannot be described as extensive. Before the beginning of the1990s, about 1,000 North Korean workers had jobs at large-scale construction sites of Buryati. However, following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the launch of economic reforms in Russia, the republic’s businessmen began to invite foreign labour force from the People’s Republic of China and from post-Soviet states. In the process, the Buryatia government has been steadily limiting quotas for guest workers with a view to reducing unemployment inside the republic. Only small groups of North Koreans now work in Buryatia. In 1998, on the initiative of Buryatia People’s Khural (parliament), the republic launched a drive to collect food and prime necessities for the DPRK which had been hit by natural calamities. After the dispatch of a large-scale batch of humanitarian aid supplies, the Embassy of the DPRK to Russia expressed gratitude to the authorities and people of Buryatia for the initiative. Two years ago, an exhibition of decorative and applied arts of the DPRK craftsmen was held at one of Ulan Ude museums.

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