North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged on Tuesday that his country is facing the “worst situation in its history” during a speech to thousands of rank-and-file members of the ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang.
Experts say Kim faces perhaps his most difficult moment in nearly a decade in power, with isolation from the coronavirus causing further problems in an economy already ravaged by decades of mismanagement and crippling sanctions led by the United States. for its nuclear weapons program.
Kim made the remarks during the opening speech at a meeting of Workers’ Party cell secretaries, the state’s Central News Agency reported.
“Improving the standard of living of the population, even in the worst situation in history in which we have to overcome many unprecedented challenges, depends on the role played by the cells, the grassroots organizations of the party,” said Kim.
The president asked members to implement decisions made in a congress in January, when he promised to strengthen his nuclear deterrence in the face of US pressure and announced a new five-year development plan. That meeting came months after, during another political conference, Kim 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” that should be corrected immediately to ensure the “healthy and sustainable” development of the organization.
Party cells, which typically have between five and 30 members, are its smallest units of authority, overseeing work and life in factories and elsewhere. The network is an important tool to perpetuate the power of the Workers’ Party. The last cell secretary conference was held in 2017.
Economic setbacks have left Kim with nothing to show for his ambitious diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump, who collapsed over disagreements over lifting sanctions in exchange for progress toward denuclearization.
For the moment, Pyongyang has rejected the Joe Biden administration’s proposal to negotiate, noting that Washington must abandon its “hostile” policies sooner, and increased the pressure by resuming ballistic missile tests last month after a year suspended.