Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged that his country is facing its “worst situation ever” when he spoke to thousands of grassroots members of his ruling party during a major political conference in Pyongyang.
Experts say Kim is facing perhaps his toughest moment as he approaches a decade of rule, in which North Korea’s lockdown of coronavirus unleashes further shock over an economy devastated by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions on his nuclear weapons program.
“Improving people’s living standards … even in the worst ever situation where we have to overcome unprecedented challenges depends on the role of the cells, the party’s grassroots organizations,” Kim said.
He urged members to implement the decisions taken at a party congress in January, promising to strengthen its nuclear deterrent effect in the face of US pressure and announcing a new five-year national development plan. Congress came months after Kim during another political conference showed unusual openness by acknowledging that his plans to improve the economy did not succeed.
During Tuesday’s speech, Kim also criticized the party’s grassroots units for unspecified “deficiencies,” which he said should be addressed immediately to ensure the party’s “healthy and sustainable” development.
Particle cells, consisting of five to 30 members, are the smallest units of party authority that oversee operations and live in factories and elsewhere. The network is an important tool for the Labor Party to continue its power. The previous conference with cell secretaries was held in 2017.
The economic setbacks have left Kim with nothing to show for his ambitious diplomacy with former President Trump, who collapsed over disagreement over lifting sanctions for the North’s nuclear phase.
Pyongyang has so far rejected the Biden administration’s opening of negotiations, saying Washington must first discard its “hostile” policies and name pressure by resuming ballistic missile testing last month after a year-long hiatus.