SEOUL (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reprimanded the country’s economic agencies for failing to execute policies on a “scientific basis” at a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, state media reported Monday.
At the meeting, held Sunday, Kim “harshly criticized” the agencies for not providing “scientific guidance” in their policies, Korean Central News Agency reported.
The meeting “stressed the need to put the operation and command for carrying out the party’s economic policies on a scientific basis and display great dedication and responsibility,” the KCNA report said.
It was unclear what specific incidents the North Korean leader was referencing, but experts have said the secretive totalitarian state has been struggling against severe economic hardships in 2020.
North Korea has faced “a triple whammy of COVID-19 border closures, international sanctions and natural disasters this year,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesperson Yoh Sang-key said in response to the KCNA report at a press briefing Monday.
Pyongyang took early action against the COVID-19 pandemic and closed its borders in January, disrupting economic activity with its main trading partner, China.
North Korea was also battered by a series of late-summer typhoons that caused flooding and major damage to buildings, roads and crops.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers last week that Kim Jong Un has taken “irrational actions” in response to economic difficulties and the pandemic, including executing a leading Pyongyang money changer over a sudden fluctuation in the exchange rate.
Kim also suspended fishing and salt production over fears that seawater could be contaminated by COVID-19, NIS officials said.
The North Korean leader has appeared to publicly target corruption and party discipline among officials ahead of a major party congress slated to be held in January.
In the summer, Kim rebuked officials over economic mismanagement of the construction of a new hospital in Pyongyang and earlier this month, he condemned a medical school for committing “serious criminal acts” and engaging in “anti-socialist activity.”
On Sunday, KCNA reported that the country has tightened its virus prevention measures along the border with the South and at maritime boundaries, going as far as to order officials to incinerate seaborne trash that enters North Korean waters.
The politburo meeting also discussed plans for the eighth congress of the Workers’ Party, slated to be held in January, at which Kim is expected to lay out a new five-year economic plan.
Last month, Kim called for an 80-day “all-out campaign” to meet economic and development goals ahead of the party congress.
(By Thomas Maresca / UPI)