North Korea’s Kim Says ‘Fortunate’ for Minimal Typhoon Damage

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the typhoon that struck his country this week did less damage than expected, indicating his state avoided a devastating blow to its already struggling agricultural sector.

Kim inspected the storm’s impact in South Hwanghae province, southwest of Pyongyang, and stated that the scale of destruction was “smaller than expected,” the state Korean Central News Agency reported on Friday. The report added, “he had worried a lot and he feels it is fortunate.”

North Korea’s Kim Says ‘Fortunate’ for Minimal Typhoon Damage

Typhoon Bavi threatened to be one of the biggest storms to hit North Korea in years but it weakened as it made landfall on Thursday over major agricultural production areas. The storm was set to cause even more damage to farmland hit by flooding in recent weeks, increasing food insecurity in a country where the United Nations World Food Program says about 40% of the population is undernourished.

Kim earlier this week called a top-level meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party to prevent casualties and minimize crop damage from the storm. KCNA on Friday said he offered praise to party organizations and officials for their preparations.

The North Korean leader told the meeting the typhoon could affect three provinces, which the WFP estimates accounts for more than 60% of the country’s rice production.

North Korea’s anemic economy was hit by tough sanctions to punish it for nuclear and missile tests in 2017.

The pressure on its finances increased from Kim’s decision to shut borders in January due to the coronavirus, which slammed the brakes on North Korea’s minuscule legal trade. This year, it could send the economy into its biggest contraction since 1997, according to Fitch Solutions.

A weaker economy could decrease Kim’s leverage in nuclear negotiations that started with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018, making it more difficult for him to achieve the sanctions relief he wanted in exchange for scaling back his nuclear weapons program.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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