SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered tougher legal supervision to support his development plans and eradicate various economy-related unlawful acts, state media said Thursday, as he works to salvage an economy battered by the pandemic and other challenges.
Kim spoke Wednesday during a ruling Workers’ Party meeting this week convened to follow up on decisions made at the ruling party’s congress in January, where he admitted previous economic plans had failed and announced a new five-year development plan.
Kim “stressed the importance to strengthen legal supervision and control over the establishment and executive process of the national economic plan,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.
He said prosecutors and other law enforcement organizations must do more to ensure the economic plan is correctly executed and “stage a strong legal struggle for checking all kinds of illegal practices revealed in economic activities.” Kim added that “all sectors and units should obey them unconditionally,” KCNA said.
Kim faces what appears to be the toughest crisis of his nine-year rule as the already-troubled economy is hit by pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North’s external trade, a spate of natural disasters last summer and persistent U.S.-led sanctions. During the party congress, Kim described the difficulties as the “worst-ever.”
The new five-year plan centres on building a stronger self-supporting economy, reducing reliance on imports, making more investments in the metal and chemical industries and increasing production of consumer goods. But some analysts say the new plan still lacks substance, noting that North Korea’s difficulties result from decades of mismanagement, self-imposed isolation and the sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program.
North Korea’s push to boost legal control over the economic plan shows Kim is “desperate to report progress over the new five-year plan to secure a stability of the Kim Jong Un government,” said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
He said punishment for those embroiled in alleged corruption, negligence and incompetence will likely be harsh.
Kim’s Wednesday speech on the third day of the plenary session of the party’s Central Committee followed earlier secessions where he criticized government agencies for “passive and self-protecting tendencies.” State media said Kim also set forth unspecified future action to be taken by agencies responsible for external and South Korean affairs. He made no mention of the United States and the deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.
During January’s congress, Kim disclosed an array of sophisticated weapons under development and vowed to enlarge his nuclear arsenal to cope with what he called intensifying U.S. hostility. He said the fate of relations between North Korea and the U.S. depends on Washington.
Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press