Kim vows to resolve economic crisis, improve people’s standard of living

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has capped off his 10th year in power with a speech that underscored the need to improve the country’s economy and its people’s standard of living, according to state media.

He made the remarks following a key ruling-party meeting in the capital Pyongyang on Friday amid the country’s worsening economic situation.

“The main task facing our party and people next year is to provide a sure guarantee for the implementation of a five-year plan and bring about a remarkable change in the state development and the people’s standard of living,” official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying.

He also stressed that battling the pandemic was one of the main goals for the coming year, saying, “Emergency anti-epidemic measures must be placed as a top national priority and be vigorously carried out… without even a minor slack, gap or loophole.”

Worsened by draconian US sanctions, the stringent closure of North Korean borders over the pandemic has hampered the country’s economic growth, with international aid organizations warning of possible food shortages and a humanitarian crisis.

The pandemic and resulting border closure saw the North record its biggest economic contraction in over two decades in 2020, according to the South Korean central bank.

Without making a direct reference to the United States or any other countries, Kim briefly said in his speech that Pyongyang would continue to build up its military capabilities over the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

“The increasingly unstable military environment on the Korean Peninsula and the international situation demand the strengthening of national defense capabilities,” KCNA quoted him as saying, without elaborating on what the measures would entail.

The United States has imposed rounds of unilateral sanctions against the North over its nuclear and missile programs since 2006. The UN has imposed its own bans as well.

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