Speaking at the ruling party’s first congress since 2016, Kim Jong-un says his economic development plan fell “greatly short” of its goals, as North Korea struggled with natural disasters, sanctions, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our five-year economic development plan has fallen greatly short of its goals in almost all sectors”, the North Korean leader admitted on Tuesday, during the opening of the first congress of the ruling Workers’ Party since 2016 in the capital Pyongyang.
At a party congress five years ago, Kim announced his five-year economic goals, promising to build a “great socialist country” by 2020.
However, speaking on Tuesday, he admitted that North Korea has been struggling with “a series of the worst of worst unprecedented crises” and said that the country “must not repeat the painful lessons.”
North Korea has been severely affected by a series of natural disasters over the past few years, along with US-led sanctions and – most recently – the coronavirus pandemic.
Severe floods in 2018 and 2020 left dozens dead, and damaged farmland and infrastructure.
In February 2019, North Korea asked the UN to provide food aid as drought and flooding led to a poor harvest, and the country was faced with food shortages.
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic forced Pyongyang to shut down the border with China – the North’s biggest trade partner – and bilateral trade plummeted by almost 80 percent.
The North has also struggled under US-led international sanctions that restrict trade and ban major exports from the country. The sanctions were imposed on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
This latest admission of failure is the second such statement by Kim. In August last year, while announcing an upcoming party congress in January, he said that his plans to strengthen the economy had been “seriously delayed” by “severe internal and external situations and unexpected manifold challenges.”
Earlier this month, Kim Jong-un sent a rare written New “invariable trust” and support during the “difficult times,” as well as pledging to work harder to bring the country into a “new era.”
At the ongoing congress in Pyongyang, which will last several days, Kim Jong-un is expected to lay out a new development program for the next five years.
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