Party congress in North Korea: Kim Jong Un admits mistakes

The isolated North Korea is groaning under the economic consequences of the pandemic, coupled with international sanctions. At the congress of his party, the ruler Kim admitted mistakes, but still wants to consolidate his position.

The North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has admitted mistakes at the congress of the ruling Labor Party. According to a report by the state news agency KCNA, Kim said in his opening speech at the party meeting, which takes place every five years, that the development goals announced at the last party congress in 2016 had “largely not been achieved in almost all areas”. North Korea should not repeat such “painful lessons,” he said.

A new five-year plan is to be presented at the congress. However, the ruler, who has been in power for nine years, is confronted with enormous problems: the North Korean economy has been even more affected by the corona pandemic and the resulting closure of the border with its most important trading partner China. A series of natural disasters and the international sanctions also affected the isolated country.

Kim wants to further consolidate position

Congress is officially the party’s highest decision-making body, but in fact Kim and his top advisors set the tone. It is expected that the several thousand MPs will approve of Kim’s proposals without much debate. In addition, the ruler is likely to try to consolidate his position by placing loyal followers in top positions and calling on the party to unity.

With the closure of the border with China, bilateral trade collapsed dramatically last year. The trading volume in the first eleven months of 2020 was 79 percent lower than in the same period of the previous year, said expert Song Jaeguk from the IBK economic research institute in Seoul. According to estimates, North Korea’s gross domestic product shrank by 9.3 percent in 2020.

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