North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country’s economy has improved this year, but he has asked for measures to address the “tense” food situation created by the coronavirus epidemic and last year’s typhoons, according to official media on Wednesday.
According to the official KCNA news agency, Kim presided over a plenary meeting of the governing Workers’ Party’s central committee on Tuesday to assess progress on important programmes and develop measures to fix economic difficulties.
The committee set goals and tasks to achieve its new five-year economic plan outlined at its previous session in February, including increased food and metal production.
Kim said the overall economy had improved in the first half of the year, with the total industrial output growing 25% from a year before, KCNA said.
However, there were “a series of deviations” in the party’s efforts to implement the plans owing to numerous impediments, he added, citing restricted food supply as one of them.
“The people’s food situation is now getting tense as the agricultural sector failed to fulfil its grain production plan due to the damage by typhoon last year,” Kim explained.
According to KCNA, the party has pledged to focus all efforts this year on farming and to study measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic.
Kim emphasised the need of taking efforts to mitigate the effects of natural catastrophes as a lesson learned from last year and a key to meeting this year’s objective.
Kim said in January that his previous five-year economic plan had failed in nearly every area, citing persistent power and food shortages aggravated by sanctions, the epidemic, and floods.
According to KCNA, he also stated that the prolonged epidemic needed the party to boost up efforts to provide food, clothes, and housing for the people.
Seoul authorities have questioned North Korea’s assertion that it has not formally verified any COVID-19 incidents. However, the remote country has enforced stringent anti-virus measures such as border closures and domestic travel restrictions.
COVAX, a global initiative for sharing COVID-19 vaccines with poor countries, has said it will provide nearly 2 million doses to North Korea but the shipment has been delayed amid protracted consultations.