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Kim Jong Un admits N. Korea’s economic failures

Posted January. 07, 2021 07:19,   

Updated January. 07, 2021 07:19


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un officially admitted that the country’s five-year economic development plan had failed to meet its goals in almost every sector during the Eighth Party Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) opened on Tuesday. A rare display of remorse by Chairman Kim at the party’s largest political event, which has been used to show off the country’s achievements, demonstrates that North Korea is in a serious economic crisis, hit by international sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts believe that the North Korean economy could fall into a serious recession, possibly worse than the “Arduous March” of the 1990s.

According to North Korea’s state-run news agency on Wednesday, Chairman Kim said in an opening speech that the worst crisis like never before has been a major obstacle to the advance of the country’s revolution, and multiple challenges that hinder the country’s efforts and progress in claiming constant victories in the development of socialist construction exists inside and outside the country. Kim cited the COVID-19 crisis, damage from natural disasters, such as floods and typhoon, and international sanctions as the three major causes of the country’s economic failures.

Affected by those difficulties, the North Korean economy deteriorated dramatically last year, which was the final year of the five-year economic development plan proposed at the Seventh Party Congress in 2016. Amid sanctions imposed by the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic has blocked support from and trade with China and Russia, wreaking havoc on the country’s industries that depended on raw materials and capital goods from China.

Agricultural production has plummeted as well due to the shortage in the supply of fertilizer during floods. Accordingly, the 80-day campaign launched before the Party Congress had to be focused on COVID-19 response efforts and flood recovery. “With international trade banned for over a year, the North Korean economy is in a position to suffer multiple blows,” said Yang Moon-su, professor at the University of North Korean Studies. “North Korea lost its growth engine with the marketization trend under the Kim Jong Un regime also hit by overseas factors.”

Oh-Hyuk Kwon hyuk@donga.com