North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sunday urged officials of his country’s ruling party to work on improving citizens’ quality of life amid a “grim” economic situation, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Monday. North Korea faces “huge tasks for adjusting and developing the state economy,” Kim said in a speech on October 10. “The only way for dynamically pushing forward the unprecedented crucial work despite grim situation is for the entire Party to get united [sic],” he continued. North Korean government officials “should always consider whether their work infringe upon the interests of the people or cause trouble to the people [sic],” the leader advised. Kim’s lecture on Sunday took place in Pyongyang to mark the 76th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), the nation’s communist ruling political party.
The celebration typically includes a large military parade in the national capital, though this year’s anniversary omitted the procession in favor of a toned-down affair.
The event included art performances and a fireworks display, according to KCNA. Kim’s remarks on October 10 marked the first time he has delivered a speech on WPK’s founding anniversary since the leader assumed power in late 2011, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency noted. “Observers say the rare speech appears aimed at tightening internal unity in the face of the deepening economic fallout caused by the global coronavirus pandemic,” Yonhap reported. North Korea has suffered from years of economic sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the international community in an effort to discourage its development of nuclear weapons.
The sanctions, coupled with historic flooding in recent months that washed away major harvests across several regions, have plunged North Korea into an economic crisis. “People’s access to food is a serious concern and the most vulnerable children and elderly are at risk of starvation,” Tomas Ojea Quintana, a United Nations (U.N.) rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, said in a new U.N. report seen by Reuters on October 7. “Essential medicines and medical supplies are in short supply and prices have increased severalfold as they stopped coming in from China, and humanitarian organizations have been unable to bring in medicines and other supplies,” the report states. North Korea closed off its borders with China in early 2020 at the start of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, further isolating its already feeble economy. “The current worsening humanitarian situation could turn into a crisis and must be averted,” the U.N. representative warned.
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