In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers an opening speech at a conference of the Workers’ Party’s cell secretaries in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, April 6, 2021. Kim has acknowledged his country was facing the “worst-ever situation” as he addressed thousands of grassroots members of his ruling party during the major political conference. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)ASSOCIATED PRESS
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for waging another “arduous march” to fight severe economic difficulties, for the first time comparing them to a 1990s famine that killed hundreds of thousands.
Kim had previously said his country faces the “worst-ever” situation due to several factors, including the coronavirus pandemic, U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters last summer. But it’s the first time he publicly drew parallel with the deadly famine.
North Korea monitoring groups haven’t detected any signs of mass starvation or a humanitarian disaster. But Kim’s comments still suggest how seriously he views the current difficulties — which foreign observers say are the biggest test of his nine-year rule.
“There are many obstacles and difficulties ahead of us, and so our struggle for carrying out the decisions of the Eighth Party Congress would not be all plain sailing,” Kim told lower-level ruling party members on Thursday, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
“I made up my mind to ask the WPK (Workers’ Party of Korea) organizations at all levels, including its Central Committee and the cell secretaries of the entire party, to wage another more difficult ‘arduous march’ in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little,” Kim said.
Kim’s speech came at the closing ceremony of a party meeting with thousands of grassroots members of the ruling party, called cell secretaries. During his opening day speech Tuesday, Kim said improving public livelihoods in the face of the “worst-ever situation” would depend on the party cells.
During the party congress in January, Kim ordered officials to build stronger self-supporting economy, reduce reliance on imports and make more consumer goods. But North Korea’s …read more