North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the ruling Workers’ Party will convene a congress next year to unveil a new five-year economic plan, admitting, “unexpected challenges” this year have hampered economic growth, the Korean Central News Agency said Thursday.
“To learn lessons from failed policies (from the last congress) and set a fresh strategy to power through hurdles ahead,” Kim said at the party’s plenary meeting on Wednesday, explaining its purpose, in a clear sign that the regime was struggling to deal with COVID-19, summer floods and international sanctions.
The plenary meeting’s final statement read, “Due to dire conditions here and abroad that have come with unforeseen hurdles to the economy, the country’s growth fell far short of targets to better lives.”
In 2016, Kim opened the previous congress, where he was named party chairman. There he unveiled the first five-year economic initiative and vowed not to use nuclear weapons, unless North Korea was attacked with them first.
The congress, slated for January, appears set to roll out measures in response to a newly elected American president who will be sworn into office around that time.
The 36-year-old Kim would have to draft engagement tactics different from the ones he has relied on so far in his dealings with US President Donald Trump, if Democratic rival Joe Biden is voted into office.
Neither Trump nor Biden has publicly offered more favorable terms for Pyongyang’s denuclearization in exchange for sanctions relief, but Trump and Kim have boasted of the rapport they have built through past meetings and letters.
In one of the Trump-Kim letters since 2018, Kim described his friendship with Trump as something out of a “fantasy film,” according to the publisher planning to reveal them.
Experts said Kim could also reshuffle key party and government posts to rally his people in favor of his rule, as they continue to suffer from the perennial food crisis and the aftermath of the floods.
The congress is the highest decision-making body that sets the party’s policies and rules, but it was never convened under Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s late father. Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un’s grandfather and the country’s founding leader, last opened a meeting in October 1980. Kim Jong-un convened a meeting once in 2016.
By Choi Si-young (firstname.lastname@example.org