TIME South Korea

South Korea Court Suspends Nut-Rage Executive’s Prison Term

The Korean Air executive will be released from jail on Friday

(SEOUL) — A South Korean court has suspended the prison term for the Korean Air chairman’s daughter whose onboard “nut rage” delayed a flight last year.

The Seoul High Court said Friday that Cho Hyun-ah, a former vice president of the airline, did not violate aviation security law when she ordered the chief flight attendant off a Dec. 5 flight, forcing it to return to the gate at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

The upper court sentenced Cho to 10 months in prison that will be suspended for two years. The court said she was guilty of using violence against flight attendants.

She’ll likely be freed from prison later Friday. She’s been in prison since her December arrest.

She’d previously been sentenced to one year in prison.

TIME North Korea

Gloria Steinem Joins Female Activists in North Korea for DMZ Peace March

Activist Gloria Steinem, center right, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, center left, along with other delegation, visit Mangyongdae, the birthplace of North Korea's late leader Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang, Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Kim Kwang Hyon—AP Activist Gloria Steinem, center right, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, center left, along with other delegation members, visit Mangyongdae, the birthplace of North Korea's late leader Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang on May 20, 2015

"I believe that we are ... breaking through this mental state that this is a permanent division"

An all-female group of peace activists landed in North Korea on Wednesday in the hope of crossing the demilitarized zone (DMZ) to South Korea on May 24, International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament. The women hope crossing the fortified border will signal that Korean reunification is not a distant goal but a realistic possibility.

The WomenCrossDMZ group, which includes noted American feminist Gloria Steinem, will conduct a peace symposium and two walks for peace, according to Reuters.

The women have already begun meeting female North Koreans and are scheduled to visit a women’s factory, maternity hospital and children’s preschool in Pyongyang.

“I believe that we are, basically by crossing the DMZ, breaking through this mental state that this is a permanent division,” said Christine Ahn, the group’s coordinator.

The 1950–53 Korean War terminated in an uneasy truce, leaving South and North Korea officially still at war. The border is dotted with just three checkpoints and crossings remain unusual, but the group secured permission from both countries to hold their event. However, they are currently awaiting permission from the U.N. Command, which controls the Panmunjom border crossing.

Ahn said she was fully aware of the entrenched animosity that persists between the two neighbors. “We have no illusions that our walk can basically erase the conflict that has endured for seven decades,” she added.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

U.N. Chief Says North Korea Withdraws Invitation to Visit

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the 'UN Global Compact - Korea Leaders Summit' event in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 19, 2015.
Yun Dong-jin—AP U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks during the U.N. Global Compact: Korea Leaders SummiT event in Seoul on May 19, 2015

Because of North Korea's continuation of missile and other weapon tests relations on the peninsula remain strained

(SEOUL) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that North Korea had withdrawn an invitation to visit a factory park in the country, a day after he announced he would travel to the last major cooperation project between the rival Koreas.

Ban said Wednesday he wanted to go the Kaesong industrial park just north of the heavily fortified Korean border on Thursday as part of an effort to help improve ties between North and South Korea, which jointly run the park.

He would have been the first U.N. chief to visit the factory park, which opened in 2004 in the city of Kaesong. He would also have been the first head of the U.N. to visit North Korea since Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993.

Ban told a forum on Wednesday that North gave no reason when it informed the U.N. of its decision to cancel his trip.

“This decision by Pyongyang is deeply regrettable,” Ban said, adding he will spare no effort to encourage the North to work with the international community for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

Ban’s cancelled trip comes as relations between the Koreas remain strained following the North’s continuation of missile and other weapon tests that South Korea views as provocations. There are also worries about North Korea after South Korea’s spy agency said last week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his defense chief executed by anti-aircraft gun fire in late April.

Analysts had said Ban’s trip won’t likely bring any major breakthrough in ties between the two Koreas.

The park opened during a period of warming ties between the Koreas and has been considered a test case for unification, pairing cheap local labor with South Korean know-how and technology.

It has survived periods of animosity, including the North’s artillery bombardment of a South Korean island in 2010, while other cross-border projects, such as tours to a scenic North Korean mountain, remain deadlocked.

In 2013, however, the park’s operations were halted for five months after North Korea withdrew its 53,000 workers amid tension over the North’s torrent of threats to launch nuclear attacks on Seoul and Washington.

The complex is a rare, legitimate source of foreign currency for the impoverished North.

The Korean Peninsula remains in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.

TIME North Korea

Kerry Slams North Korea, Vows Security for South

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-Se (not pictured) during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on May 18, 2015.
Jeon Heon-Kyun—Pool/Getty Images U.S Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-Se (not pictured) during a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul on May 18, 2015.

Kerry assured South Korea of America's "ironclad" commitments

(SEOUL) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday accused North Korea of a litany of crimes and atrocities while reassuring South Korea of America’s “ironclad” security commitments.

Kerry blamed North Korea for continuing to break promises, make threats and “show flagrant disregard for international law” by continuing provocative nuclear and missile activity while oppressing its own people. He said North Korea’s “horrific conduct” must be exposed and vowed to ratchet up pressure on Pyongyang to change its behavior, particularly since it has rebuffed repeated attempts to restart denuclearization negotiations.

“They have grown the threat of their program and have acted with a kind of reckless abandon,” Kerry said, referring to North Korea and its leadership, less than a week after South Korea’s spy agency said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his defense chief executed with an anti-aircraft gun for complaining about the young ruler, talking back to him and sleeping during a meeting Kim presided over.

That allegation, if true, adds to concerns about the erratic nature of Kim’s rule, particularly after Pyongyang claimed last weekend it had successfully test-fired a newly developed ballistic missile from a submarine.

Kerry called the reported killing just the latest in a series of “grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy.” He said that if such behavior continued, calls would grow in the international community for North Korea to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said “the severity of recent threats and provocations” made it essential to bolster the security relationship.

The actions come despite a recent U.S. diplomatic overture to North Korea to discuss resuming denuclearization talks that have been stalled for the past three years. The U.S. quietly proposed a meeting with North Korea in January, before the U.S. and South Korea began annual military exercises that North Korea regards as a provocation. The two sides, however, failed to agree on who could meet and where.

Kerry noted North Korea’s refusal to return to the table, saying “all they are doing now is isolating themselves further and creating greater risks to the region and to their own country.” He said the U.S. remained open to talks but only if “we …. have some indication from the leader of North Korea that they are serious about engaging on the subject of their nuclear program.”

Kerry also expressed hope that the successful conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran would send a positive message to North Korea to restart negotiations on its own atomic program. Kerry said he believed an Iran agreement could have “a positive influence” on North Korea, because it would show that giving up nuclear weapons improves domestic economies and ends isolation.

“Perhaps that can serve as an example to North Korea about a better way to move, a better way to try and behave,” he said.

International negotiators are rushing to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran by the end of June under which Iran’s program would be curbed to prevent it from developing atomic weapons in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions that have crippled its economy.

Nuclear talks with North Korea, which has already developed atomic weapons despite previous attempts to forestall it, broke down three years ago as it has continued atomic tests and other belligerent behavior, including ballistic missile launches.

North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and is now believed to have at least 10 such weapons despite some of the toughest international sanctions in existence. It conducted its third nuclear test in February 2013, and U.S.-based experts forecast that it could increase its nuclear arsenal to between 20 and 100 weapons by 2020.

In addition to talks on issues related to North Korea, Kerry in Seoul will be laying the groundwork for a visit to Washington in June of South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Kerry is to deliver a speech on cyber security and related issues. Both North Korea and China pose major cyber security challenges. South Korea has faced hacking attacks it has blamed on North Korea, and the United States accuses the North of being behind the massive attack on Sony Pictures last year that resulted in new U.S. sanctions.

Kerry will use the opportunity to lay out U.S. efforts to combat the threats and to stress the importance of a free and open internet, according to U.S. officials.

TIME North Korea

North Korea Reportedly Executes Its Defense Minister for Dozing Off at a Military Event

Senior North Korean military officer Hyon Yong Chol delivers a speech during the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow April 16, 2015.
Sergei Karpukhin—Reuters Senior North Korean military officer Hyon Yong Chol delivers a speech during the 4th Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS) in Moscow April 16, 2015.

The execution is the latest in a series of purges against senior North Korean officials

North Korea has reportedly executed its Defense Minister for falling asleep at a military event that was attended by the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told lawmakers in Seoul.

According to South Korean media on Wednesday, Hyon Yong Chol was charged with treason and executed on April 30 in front of a crowd of hundreds of North Korean officials, reports Reuters.

Hyon, who was chief of the country’s People’s Armed Forces, is also said to have talked back to the North Korean dictator several times.

The South Korean intelligence agency briefed a parliamentary committee about the execution on Wednesday.

Hyon’s execution is the latest in a series of purges against senior officials in the isolated country. Last month, the NIS said Pyongyang had ordered the execution of 15 high-ranking officials for undermining Kim’s leadership.

[Reuters]

TIME North Korea

South Korea Confirms NYU Student Is Detained in North Korea

A North Korean soldier stands on the river bank in Sinuiju, North Korea, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong
AP A North Korean soldier stands on the river bank in Sinuiju, North Korea, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, on June 12, 2013.

Student was said to have tried crossing into North from China border river

A man identified as a South Korean student at New York University is being detained in North Korea, according to the South’s unification ministry, one day after the North’s state news agency said it had arrested and charged him with illegally entering the reclusive country.

New Jersey resident Won Moon Joo, 21, was arrested April 22 after apparently attempting to cross a river that serves as part of the border between China and North Korea, the Korean Central News Agency said. An official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Sunday that its “judgment” was that Joo was being held but the circumstances over his detainment remained unclear, according to the Los Angeles Times.

John Beckman, a spokesperson for New York University, said in a statement that a student by the same name was a junior at the university’s Stern School of Business, though is not taking classes this semester. Beckman said the university has contacted the State Department and the South Korean Embassy.

[LAT]

TIME protest

Workers Rally on May Day Across the World

A masked protestor runs away from tear gas during a May Day rally at Okmeydani in Istanbul on May 1, 2015.
Yasin Akgul—AFP/Getty Images A masked protestor runs away from tear gas during a May Day rally at Okmeydani in Istanbul on May 1, 2015.

May 1 regularly sees clashes between police and militant groups in some cities

(HAVANA) — Left-wing groups, governments and trade unions were staging rallies around the world Friday to mark International Workers Day.

Most events were peaceful protests for workers’ rights and world peace. But May 1 regularly sees clashes between police and militant groups in some cities.

International Workers Day originates in the United States. American unions first called for the introduction of an eight-hour working day in the second half of the 19th century. A general strike was declared to press these demands, starting May 1, 1886. The idea spread to other countries and since then workers around the world have held protests on May 1 every year, although the U.S. celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September.

Here’s a look at some of the May Day events around the world:

TURKEY

Police and May Day demonstrators clashed in Istanbul as crowds determined to defy a government ban tried to march to the city’s iconic Taksim Square.

Security forces pushed back demonstrators using water cannons and tear gas. Protesters retaliated by throwing stones and hurling firecrackers at police.

Authorities have blocked the square that is symbolic as the center of protests in which 34 people were killed in 1977.

Turkish newswires say that 10,000 police officers were stationed around the square Friday.

The demonstrations are the first large-scale protests since the government passed a security bill this year giving police expanded powers to crack down on protesters.

___

CUBA

Thousands of people converged on Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution for the traditional May Day march, led this year by President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. After attending Cuba’s celebration, Maduro was to fly back to Caracas to attend the May Day observances in his own country.

The parade featured a group of doctors who were sent to Africa to help in the fight against Ebola. Marchers waved little red, white and blue Cuban flags as well as posters with photos of revolutionary leader Fidel Castro, his brother Raul, and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Additional marches were held in major cities around the island, including Santiago and Holguin in the east.

___

SOUTH KOREA

Thousands of people marched in the capital Seoul on Friday for a third week to protest government labor policies and the handling of a ferry disaster that killed more than 300 people a year ago.

Demonstrators occupied several downtown streets and sporadically clashed with police officers. Protesters tried to move buses used to block their progress. Police responded by spraying tear gas. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

South Korean labor groups have been denouncing a series of government policies they believe will reduce wages, job security and retirement benefits for state employees.

___

PHILIPPINES

More than 10,000 workers and activists marched in Manila and burned an effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to protest low wages and a law allowing employers to hire laborers for less than six months to avoid giving benefits received by regular workers.

Workers in metropolitan Manila now receive 481 pesos ($10.80) in daily minimum wage after a 15 peso ($0.34) increase in March.

Although it is the highest rate in the country, it is still “a far cry from being decent,” says Lito Ustarez, vice chairman of the left-wing May One Movement.

___

GREECE

In financially struggling Greece, an estimated 13,000 people took part in three separate May Day marches in Athens, carrying banners and shouting anti-austerity slogans. Minor clashes broke out at the end of the peaceful marches, when a handful of hooded youths threw a petrol bomb at riot police. No injuries or arrests were reported.

Earlier, ministers from the governing radical left Syriza party joined protesters gathering for the marches, including Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis — who was mobbed by media and admirers — and the ministers of labor and energy.

___

GERMANY

Police in Berlin say the traditional ‘Walpurgis Night’ protest marking the eve of May 1 was calmer than previous years.

Several thousand people took part in anti-capitalist street parties in the north of the city. Fireworks and stones were thrown at police, injuring one officer. Fifteen people were detained. Elsewhere in the German capital revelers partied “extremely peacefully,” police noted on Friday morning.

At noon, Green Party activists unveiled a statue at Alexanderplatz in central Berlin of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, considered heroes by many on the left for leaking secret U.S. intelligence and military documents. The statue, called “Anything to say,” depicts the three standing on chairs and is scheduled to go on tour around the world, according to the website http://www.anythingtosay.com/.

In the central German city of Weimar far-right extremists attacked a union event. Police said 15 people were injured and 29 were arrested.

___

RUSSIA

In Moscow, tens of thousands of workers braved chilly rain to march across Red Square. Instead of the red flags with the Communist hammer and sickle used in Soviet times, they waved the blue flags of the dominant Kremlin party and the Russian tricolor.

Despite an economic crisis that is squeezing the working class, there was little if any criticism of President Vladimir Putin or his government.

The Communist Party later held a separate march under the slogan “against fascism and in support of Donbass,” with participants calling for greater support for the separatists fighting the Ukrainian army in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.

___

ITALY

In Milan, police released water from hydrants against hundreds of demonstrators, many of them scrawling graffiti on walls or holding smoky flares during a march in the city, where the Italian premier and other VIPs were inaugurating Expo, a world’s fair that runs for six months.

An hour into the march, protesters set at least one parked car on fire, smashed store windows, tossed bottles and chopped up pavement.

Italian labor confederation leaders held their main rally in a Sicilian town, Pozzallo, where thousands of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia have arrived in recent weeks after being rescued at sea from smugglers boats. Hoping to settle for the most part in northern Europe, the migrants are fleeing poverty as well as persecution or violent conflicts in their homelands.

___

SPAIN

Around 10,000 protesters gathered under sunny skies in Madrid to take part in a May Day march under a banner saying “This is not the way to come out of the financial crisis.”

Spain’s economy is slowly emerging from the double-dip recession it hit at the end of 2013, but the country is still saddled with a staggering 23.8 percent unemployment rate.

“There should be many more of us here,” said demonstrator Leandro Pulido Arroyo, 60. “There are six million people unemployed in Spain, and many others who are semi-unemployed, who although they may be working don’t earn enough to pay for decent food.”

___

POLAND

Rallies in Warsaw were muted this year after Poland’s weakened left wing opposition held no May Day parade.

Only a few hundred supporters of the Democratic Left Alliance, or SLD, and of its ally, the All-Poland Trade Union, gathered for a downtown rally Friday to demand more jobs and job security.

___

BRAZIL

President Dilma Rousseff skipped her traditional televised May Day address, instead releasing a brief video calling attention to gains for workers under her leadership.

In the video, Rousseff says the minimum wage grew nearly 15 percent above the rate of inflation from 2010-2014. Her office said the choice to roll out several short videos via social media Friday was aimed at reaching a younger public.

TIME Japan

Japan’s Shinzo Abe Is Talking in Washington — but He Needs to Talk to Asia

Shinzo Abe, Joe Biden, John Boehner
Carolyn Kaster—AP Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks before a joint meeting of Congress, April 29, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

The Japanese Prime Minister is a hit in Washington, but the reaction in China and South Korea will matter more

Shinzo Abe landed in the U.S. this week to great fanfare. Delivering the first-ever speech by a Japanese Prime Minister to a joint session of Congress, Abe proclaimed his resolve to “to take yet more responsibility for the peace and stability in the world.” Japan is busy trying to shape a new foreign policy course for itself after years of relative isolation on the geopolitical stage, a result of its pacifist constitution that dates back to its defeat and occupation by the U.S. after World War II.

Yet while much attention has been focused on Abe’s overture to Washington, just as critical to Japan’s re-emergence on the global stage is its relationship with its Asian neighbors — especially China and South Korea. How these two economic powers respond to a more assertive Japan will go a long way in determining how far Abe’s ambitions will take Tokyo.

After decades of hostility, Japan-China relations have markedly improved over the past six months. Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping have had productive encounters over the past two years, and have agreed to keep the lines of communication open going forward. China and Japan have both promised to use “dialogue and consultation” to deal with territorial disputes in the East China Sea and to work towards developing crisis mechanisms to avoid escalation.

While this might not sound like much, it is a significant achievement for two Asian heavyweights who have long been at each other’s throats. China’s rise casts a long shadow over all of Asia, but Japan has signaled a willingness to collaborate, boding well for the future. Japan’s dramatically improved relationship with India should also make China cautious in its dealings with Japan. There remain a host of issues to work out — particularly over Japan’s actions during World War II — but the China-Japan relationship now has the best trajectory of any bilateral relationship in the G20.

Yet for all the progress Japan has made with China, its relationship with South Korea — technically an ally — remains strained. The trilateral relationship among the U.S., Japan and South Korea is critical to American plans for the region, but historical disputes have threatened this framework. During World War II, South Korean women were forced to work for the occupying Japanese army as “comfort women” — a euphemism for sex slaves.

While Abe said in a speech at Harvard University on Monday that his “heart aches even now” for the victims, he has stopped short of officially recognizing and apologizing for the practice, as Seoul has demanded. Abe maintains that previous government apologies for Japanese wartime aggressions are sufficient. The South Koreans clearly disagree, with a Korean newspaper denouncing Abe as “the root of the problem” on its front page this week. With a sputtering economy and a government weakened by scandal — South Korea’s Prime Minister resigned on April 27 after bribery accusations — it is no wonder that Seoul is eyeing Japan’s aspirations warily.

The U.S. has tried to stay out of this charged dispute, and is taking a page from its playbook with another key American ally: Turkey. Out of concerns for Turkish feelings, President Obama has refrained from uttering the G word to describe the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey early in the last century. That caution — even though most historians accept that a genocide occurred — is calculated to avoid damaging a strategically important relationship.

In Japan, Abe has the political capital to apologize for historical aggression, but chooses not to. Japan is too important to Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy to risk estranging its leaders, especially with the critical Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on the horizon.

If the pivot to Asia is to succeed and Japan’s new foreign policy ambitions are to be realized, America’s democratic allies in Asia need to find a way to move forward. Abe is talking in the U.S., but what matters is whether Asia is listening.

TIME South Korea

South Korea Ferry Captain Sentenced to Life in Prison

Judges preside over verdicts for the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol's crew members who are charged with negligence and abandonment of passengers in the disaster at Gwangju High Court in Gwangju, South Korea, April 28, 2015.
Ahn Young-joon—AP Judges preside over verdicts for the sunken South Korean ferry Sewol's crew members at Gwangju High Court in Gwangju, South Korea, on April 28, 2015

The South Korean ferry captain responsible for a ferry disaster will face an increased life sentence in prison

(SEOUL) — The South Korean ferry captain responsible for last year’s disaster that killed more than 300 people, mostly school children, was given an increased sentence of life in prison Tuesday by an appellate court that convicted him of homicide.

A district court in November had sentenced Lee Joon-seok to 36 years in prison for negligence and abandoning passengers in need but acquitted him of homicide. Victims’ relatives criticized the verdict at the time, saying it was too lenient. Prosecutors earlier had demanded the death penalty for Lee.

Lee’s sentence was increased because the Gwangju High Court additionally convicted him on the homicide charges while upholding most of other charges that led to his November conviction, according to a court statement.

The appellate court sentenced 14 other navigation crew members to 18 months to 12 years in prison, the statement said. In November they had received sentences of five to 30 years in prison.

The court said it decided on Lee’s homicide conviction because he fled the ship without making any evacuation order though he, as a captain, is required by law to take some measures to rescue his passengers.

Lee’s behavior was “homicide by willful negligence,” the court judged. “For whatever excuses, it’s difficult to forgive Lee Joon-seok’s action that caused a big tragedy,” the court statement cited the verdict as saying.

Lee and the 14 crew members have been the subject of fierce public anger because they were among the first people rescued from the ship when it began badly listing on the day of the sinking in April last year. Most of the victims were teenagers who were en route to a southern island for a school trip.

Lee has said he issued an evacuation order, but the court statement said two of the 14 crew members acknowledged that there was no evacuation order. Many student survivors have said they were repeatedly ordered over a loudspeaker to stay on the sinking ship and that they didn’t remember there any evacuation orders made by crewmembers before they helped each other to flee the ship.

Court spokesman Jeon Ilho said both prosecutors and the crew members have one week to appeal the verdicts.

A year after sinking, 295 bodies have been retrieved but nine others are missing. There is still lingering public criticism against the government over its handling of the sinking, the country’s deadliest maritime disaster in decades. Violence occurred during a Seoul rally led by relatives and their supporters earlier this month, leaving dozens of people injured.

Last week, South Korea formally announced it would salvage the ship from the ocean floor off the country’s southwest coast. Relatives of the victims hope that might locate the missing, including four students, and help reveal more details about the sinking. Some experts are skeptical about those wishes and remain opposed to spending taxpayer’s money to lift the civilian vessel.

Officials say the salvage job is estimated to cost $91 million to $137 million and take 12 to 18 months.

Authorities blame excessive cargo, improper storage, botched negligence and other negligence for the sinking, and have arrested about 140 people. Critics say higher-level officials haven’t been accountable.

TIME North Korea

See Kim Jong Un Celebrate Ascent of North Korea’s Highest Peak

This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.
KNS—AFP/Getty Images This photo taken on April 18, 2015 and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 20, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on a snow-covered Mount Paektu during sunrise in Ryanggang Province.

“Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon,” said a state media report.

North Korean state media released a collection of celebratory images of leader Kim Jong Un at the summit of the country’s highest peak.

The state-run Rodong newspaper reported that Kim climbed Mt. Paektu on Saturday with a group of fighter pilots and other party and military leaders.

The country’s media is keen on portraying the supreme leader—a member of this year’s TIME 100—in action, such as when video surfaced of him flying a small plane.

North Korean propaganda says Mt. Paektu, which rises some 9,000 feet, was the birthplace of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father — though historians say he was actually born in Soviet Russia.

“When one climbs snow-stormy Mt. Paektu and undergoes the blizzards over it, one can experience its real spirit and harden the resolution to accomplish the Korean revolution,” the Rodong report said. “Climbing Mt. Paektu provides precious mental pabulum more powerful than any kind of nuclear weapon and it is the way for carrying forward the revolutionary traditions of Paektu and giving steady continuity to the glorious Korean revolution.”

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