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story.lead_photo.caption North Korean Hyon Song Wol (center), the leader of Pyongyang’s all-female Moranbong Band, visits the Jangchung Arena in Seoul, South Korea. on Monday.

N. Korea celebrity sees protest in South

SEOUL, South Korea -- Conservative South Korean activists burned a large photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as the head of a popular North Korean girl band passed them Monday during a visit to Seoul.

Hyon Song Wol, a North Korean celebrity who heads Kim's hand-picked Moranbong Band, began a two-day visit on Sunday, triggering a media frenzy. Hyon is also in charge of the North's artistic performances during next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Hyon was at the Seoul railway station Monday when about 150 to 200 activists were protesting her visit and recent inter-Korean rapprochement deals. Hyon saw the activists but did not react.

The demonstrators used a blowtorch to burn Kim's photo, a North Korean flag and a "unification flag" that athletes of the rival Koreas plan to carry together during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Police plan to investigate the protesters, according to Yonhap news agency.

U.S. ex-official meets with Burma leader

RANGOON, Burma -- Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met Monday with Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss the potential return of Rohingya Muslim refugees.

The Rohingya exodus, and the mass killings and rapes that the refugees say occurred before they fled Burma's Rakhine state, have drawn global condemnation and widespread criticism of Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate once seen as a champion of human rights. The United Nations has called the attacks on the Rohingya "textbook ethnic cleansing."

Richardson previously said he would also press Suu Kyi's government to release two detained Burmese journalists who had been covering the crisis. They were arrested Dec. 12 after, police said, they violated a colonial-era law by acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen.

Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary in President Bill Clinton's administration, is part of a 10-member advisory board working to implement Rohingya recommendations made by a group headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Putin foe's foundation told to shut down

MOSCOW -- A Moscow court Monday ordered the closure of a foundation supporting the activities of Alexei Navalny, the country's leading opposition politician, moving quickly in a case filed this month by the Justice Ministry.

The foundation, the Fifth Season of the Year, has been used by Navalny to collect donations that finance campaign materials, salaries and offices in 84 regions across Russia, part of his drive against corruption and the workings of the Kremlin under President Vladimir Putin. More than 145,000 Russians have donated $4.9 million to the foundation over the past 13 months, Navalny says.

At the end of December, Russian election officials barred Navalny from running in the presidential election scheduled for March. In response, Navalny announced that he would turn his candidacy into a campaign for a boycott of the presidential election. The Kremlin wants to see a high turnout on behalf of Putin to cement his legacy as one of Russia's greatest leaders.

"We wanted to take part in the election, but they did not let us, so we will campaign against this election," Navalny said in a video released last week.

Iraqis set date for national elections

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's parliament on Monday set May 12 as the date for holding national elections, despite calls from the country's Sunni community to delay the vote until the return of nearly 3 million people displaced by the fight against the Islamic State extremist group.

Shiite lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati said lawmakers at a session in the Shiite-dominated parliament "unanimously" approved the date proposed by the government.

The parliament struggled to set the date, prompting the country's Supreme Court to issue a ruling on Sunday against any delay to the elections, the fourth since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

With most of the Sunni areas in northern and western Iraq in ruins, the Sunnis argue that it is difficult for voters to update their information or cast their ballots.

Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri said the government is committed to returning the displaced and to creating a peaceful atmosphere for the elections.

A Section on 01/23/2018

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