Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged that his country is facing its “worst situation” when he addressed thousands of rank-and-file members of his ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang.
Experts say Kim faces perhaps his most difficult moment as he approaches a decade in office, with North Korea’s coronavirus lockdown unleashing further impact on an economy ravaged by decades of mismanagement and crippling state-led sanctions. United on their nuclear weapons program.
North Korea’s official central news agency said Kim made the remarks during a keynote speech at a meeting of the Workers’ Party cell secretaries on Tuesday.
“Improving people’s living standards … even in the worst situation where we have to overcome many unprecedented challenges depends on the role played by the cells, the grassroots organizations of the party,” Kim said.
He urged members to carry out decisions made at a party congress in January, when he vowed to strengthen his nuclear deterrence in the face of pressure from the United States and announced a new five-year national development plan. The congress came months after Kim, during another political conference, showed unusual frankness in acknowledging that his plans to improve the economy were not succeeding.
During Tuesday’s speech, Kim also criticized the party’s grassroots units for unspecified “deficiencies” which he said should be corrected immediately to ensure the party’s “healthy and sustainable” development.
Party cells, consisting of five to 30 members, are the smallest units of party authority that oversee operations and lives in factories and elsewhere. The network is an important tool for the Workers’ Party to perpetuate its power. The previous cell secretaries conference was held in 2017.
The economic setbacks have left Kim with nothing to show for his ambitious diplomacy with former President Trump, who collapsed over disagreements over lifting sanctions over North Korea’s denuclearization steps.
Pyongyang has so far rejected the Biden administration’s proposal for talks, saying Washington must first scrap its “hostile” policies and increased pressure by resuming ballistic missile tests last month after a yearlong hiatus.