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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 April, 2004, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
N Koreans informed in radio broadcast
N Korean TV shows leaders attending army ceremony
Leaders demonstrate unity on TV

More than two days after the train disaster, North Koreans finally learnt about the event in a brief report broadcast on state radio late on Saturday evening.

It carried an item on the blast similar to that filed by the official state news agency KCNA some 12 hours earlier. That report came 45 hours after the explosion occurred.

But the radio added that diplomats from a number of countries and members of international organisations in the country had visited the scene and donated relief aid, including medical supplies and food.

"This kind of humanitarian cooperation is encouraging our people's efforts to recover from the damage," it said.

Earlier on Saturday, North Korean TV broadcast a long meeting of senior party and military leaders to mark the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the Korean People's Army.

The meeting was addressed by Yon Hyong-muk, the vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission, who stressed the importance of what he called "single-hearted unity".

"We have great pride in having prepared a mighty war deterrent which can immediately defeat any of the imperialists' new weapons and operational means as well as any sudden attacks," Yon told those present.

The TV did not say whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-il attended.

Concern in Seoul

News of the train disaster sparked close interest in the South Korean media.

Choson Ilbo reported that, as the story broke, security-related departments in the South were put on high alert to analyse incoming reports and assess their significance.

The paper speculated about the impact the blast might have on the North's fragile economy.

"It is not an overstatement to say that the North Korean economy is sustained by the narrow lifeline passing through Ryongchon. If this lifeline has been damaged by the explosion incident, what adverse effects it will have on the North Korean economy is anyone's guess," it wrote.

A cartoon in the paper satirised North Korean efforts to keep people away from the site of the blast, with the caption "This is REALLY insane!"

Chungang Ilbo urged Pyongyang to change its attitude. "Authorities there should not try to conceal the truth about this," the paper said.

Facts and speculation

Since the story first broke, Chinese media outlets have carried factual reports on the disaster. By Saturday evening the story had crept up the running order on Chinese television's main evening news.

The TV reported a message of condolences from Chinese president Hu Jintao and details of an emergency aid package.

By Saturday, Xinhua news agency was reporting from Ryongchon itself.

The Russian media also reported factually, noting President Vladimir Putin's message of condolences and offers of aid. Pundits also speculated about the cause of the disaster and its implications.

Russian Channel 1 TV also carried pictures direct from the disaster site.

Meanwhile, a Japanese newspaper reported more bad news for Mr Kim.

Sankei Shimbun said on Saturday that, according to unconfirmed information, Kim Jong-il's wife, Ko Yong-hi, has been hospitalised in Paris with a serious illness.

Ko is the mother of Kim's second son, Jong-chol, "who is believed to be his planned successor for the country's leadership", the paper said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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