Kim admits North Korea struggling with economic hardships

(Update 1: Includes Kim’s speech, edits throughout)

By Andrés Sánchez Braun

Seoul, Jan 6 (efe-epa).- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has warned that the country was facing economic hardships as he admitted during a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party that the five-year plan had fallen “way short of the set objectives.”

In his address to the ruling party’s congress that he kicked off on Tuesday, Kim ignored any direct reference to the United States amid stalled denuclearization talks.

“The period of implementing the five-year strategy for the national economic development ended last year, almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives,” Kim said in the address on Tuesday.

The speech was reproduced on Wednesday in full by the official KCNA news agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

The leader said various external and internal challenges had hampered and hindered “our efforts and advance for fresh and continuous victories in socialist construction.”

“The key to breaking through the existing manifold difficulties with utmost certainty and speed lies in consolidating our own strength, our internal force, in all respects.”

It is quite unusual for Kim’s regime to admit that the country is struggling but he had also acknowledged North Korea’s economic difficulties in 2020 due to the devastation caused by three typhoons and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier, on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea, on Oct.10, Kim said North Koreans were hit by international sanctions and their agonies were multiplied after the country strictly closed its borders at the beginning of the pandemic.

This has caused a decline in foreign investments and trade has almost hit rock bottom amid reports that there was a shortage of basic products in Pyongyang supermarkets, pushing the reclusive country into the worst crisis since a terrible famine in the late 1990s.

Kim spoke at the opening session of the 8th congress of the Workers’ Party. Observers expect a new five-year plan to be introduced at the ongoing congress.

“In this period, the unprecedented, worst-ever trials put great obstacles on the road of advance of our revolution, but our party achieved great successes through tenacious and accurate practical activities aimed at implementing its fighting programs,” Kim said.

As expected, Kim did not make a direct mention of the US in his speech at the most important political meeting in the country.

He instead focused on designing internal policies and restructuring the regime’s organization chart.

The event is expected to leave some clues about the regime’s weapons program and its diplomatic plans.

There have been speculations that the regime might resume weapons testing to force the resumption of negotiations once US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

“The congress would discuss and decide on a fresh line of struggle and strategic and tactical policies for making a radical leap forward in the development of the party and socialist construction on the basis of a scientific analysis of the trends of the developing revolution and the prevailing situations in existence,” according to the Rodong Sinmun.

For unknown reasons, North Korea had this time kept the exact date of the congress a secret, indicating only that it would be held in “early January.”

According to state media, some 5,000 people, including delegates and party leadership, and around 2,000 guests, are attending the council, exceeding the number of participants in 2016.

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