Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, has lashed out at his regime’s economic chiefs as the country suffers under the triple whammy of international sanctions, the Covid-19 pandemic and a series of destructive summer typhoons.
At a Sunday meeting of the politburo, the highest decision-making body of the ruling Workers Party, the authoritarian leader “harshly criticised” economic agencies for failing to handle policy in a scientific manner, South Korean newswire Yonhap reported on Monday, citing state media.
The criticism follows reports late last week - based on South Korean intelligence briefings to parliament - that at least two officials have been executed in the last three months as Kim vents his frustration over the country’s rising economic woes.
The executed men mentioned in the reports, which cannot be independently verified, are believed to have been a foreign exchange dealer over currency fluctuations and an official at a customs post on the border with China.
In January, North Korea closed its border with China, its biggest trade partner, as a desperate measure to keep out the coronavirus to stop it destroying the country’s already weak public health system.
Kim’s latest outburst suggests he is feeling pressure to boost the economy ahead of a rare party congress in January to unveil a new economic development plan. The meeting will be held for the first time in four years.
In August, he made a frank admission that North Korea’s economic progress has been “seriously delayed” and acknowledged the hardships faced by his population, stating that the country “faced unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects”.
The new economic blueprint would examine the “deviations and shortcomings” of the current plan, which had fallen short of its objectives due to internal and external circumstances, reported the Korean Central News Agency.
The current five-year plan was unveiled at a party congress held in May 2016, the first since Kim took the reigns of power in 2011, and it was supposed to achieve its economic prosperity goals by the end of this year.