The North Korea Congress meeting-the first in five years-opened with a speech from the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. In his opening speech, Kim said that “almost all sectors fell a long way short of the set objectives.”
North Korea’s economy currently in dire straits
North Korea is one of the poorest countries in Asia, and the already besieged economy is being hammered by pandemic-related border closings with China, which is a major source of income.
According to Song Jaeguk, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul, trade with China plummeted by almost 80% in the first 11 months of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019. He also estimated that North Korea’s GDP contracted by 9.3% in 2020.
The current economic failure is as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a series of natural disasters, and persistent U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear program.
Experts are skeptical that president-elect Joe Biden will lessen the sanctions against North Korea until the North takes significant steps toward denuclearization.
Kim has been pushing to reform his image as a caring leader
During his speech at Congress, Kim Jong-un called for a new five-year plan, and reviewed the present status of North Korea’s metal, chemical, electric and other key industries.
“We should further promote and expand the victories and successes we have gained at the cost of sweat and blood, and prevent the painful lessons from being repeated,” he was quoted as saying.
According to state media, Kim Jong-un sent new year’s cards to citizens, which-according to Seoul-is the first time a North Korean leader has done such in over 26 years.
During a speech in October, Kim shed tears as he thanked people for withstanding difficulties. He also made a number of visits to rural areas hit by typhoons and flooding.