North Korea: Kim Jong-un says economic plan a near-total failure at rare political meeting

- THE GUARDIAN - Jan 6, 2021 -

Justin McCurry -

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the first day of the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang. Photograph: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, has admitted that his economic policies have largely failed, and vowed to avoid a repeat of the “painful lessons” of the past at a rare meeting of the country’s ruling party.

Kim told the congress of the Workers’ party that his five-year economic plan had failed to achieve its goals “in almost all areas to a great extent”, North Korean state media said on Wednesday.

“We should further promote and expand the successes and victories that we’ve achieved through our painstaking efforts but prevent us from having the painful lessons again.”

The congress, the first for five years, opened with Kim facing the toughest challenges of his nine-year rule, caused by what he called “unprecedented” crises.

It is being closely watched for signs of a shift in economic policy, after a year in which North Korea was struck by natural disasters while contending with the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic and international sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

While the regime continues to claim it has not recorded a single case of Covid-19, border closures and the suspension of international flights have strained an already fragile economy.

Trade with China plummeted by almost 80% in the first 11 months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, according to Song Jaeguk, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul. North Korea’s GDP was estimated to have contracted by 9.3% in 2020, he added.


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