Kim Jong Un Warns on ‘Abnormal Climate,’ Orders Land Overhaul
(Bloomberg) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged party officials to look into massive land projects after flooding from an “abnormal climate” over the past few years has helped push his state into one of its worst food shortages under his rule.
Kim told a political bureau meeting of his ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to place all efforts into bringing in the current harvest and “make a breakthrough in settling the food problem of the people,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported Friday. He also wanted “pushing forward huge nature-remaking projects,” to mitigate damage caused by floods and typhoons, it said.
The North Korean leader has issued rare warnings of economic struggles and food shortages in the past months, perhaps to prepare his people for hard times ahead. But Kim so far has shown no indication he’s willing to sit down for discussions with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on reducing his nuclear arsenal in return for economic incentives.
North Korea is facing its worse food shortages in more than a decade, it said in a report to the United Nations a few months ago, giving the world notice Pyongyang is bracing for one of its biggest domestic challenges since Kim took power at the end of 2011. Kim told party leaders the dangers from what he called an abnormal climate have become higher in recent years.
North Korea’s perennial food shortages were made worse by typhoons in 2020 that wiped out crops and Kim’s decision to shut borders due to Covid, slamming the brakes on what little legal trade it has. According to the UN World Food Program, about 40% of North Korea’s population is undernourished, adding “food insecurity and malnutrition are widespread.”
By making its problems public, Kim may be sending a signal to the Biden administration to allow more assistance through international organizations like the World Food Program.
At the party meeting, Kim also called on officials to place “paramount importance” on tightening epidemic prevention, “given the further worsening worldwide health crisis,” KCNA said. Kim’s decision to shut borders at the start of the pandemic appears to have made North Korea’s food even more dire.
North Korea says it has had no cases of Covid-19, but officials from the U.S., Japan and others highly doubt the claim. Kim meanwhile, has shunned offers of vaccines through the Covax program backed by the World Health Organization, apparently because it’s unwilling to follow the organization’s instructions and rules.
North Korea most recently rejected Covax’s offer to provide around 3 million doses of Sinovac vaccines, according to NK News on Wednesday.
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