Kim Jong Un warned North Koreans to prepare for hardship and isolation after making a rare public reference to the country’s devastating famine in the 1990s.
The North Korean leader, speaking at a conference of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Thursday, warned of “many obstacles and difficulties ahead.”
“I have decided to ask WPK organizations at all levels, including its central committee, and cell secretaries from across the party to lead another more difficult ‘strenuous march’ in order to relieve our people of difficulty.” , Kim mentioned. The leader’s speech, given to party cell secretaries, was reported by state media.
The warning was issued as worries rise among international human rights groups, non-governmental organizations and foreign diplomats following a humanitarian disaster in an already impoverished country.
The reference to the “arduous march”, a euphemistic name given to the period when famine killed millions of people, did not necessarily mean that the situation inside the country was as bad as the 1990s, according to Rachel Lee , a former US government analyst in North Korea and an expert on deciphering the country’s propaganda.
But, she said, Kim’s remarks seemed to “confirm the severity of the economic difficulties” as well as the “leader’s determination to overcome them without relying on an improvement in external factors, namely an improvement in relations with states. -United”.
“Internally, Kim is telling people to prepare for a long period of economic hardship and hard work to improve the economy, similar to the ‘hard march’ of the 1990s,” Lee said.
She added: “Externally, he is sending the message that he will not lower the bar in negotiations with the United States just to have the sanctions lifted, that he considers improving relations between states. United and North Korea as a long-term problem and it will be. prepared for it accordingly.
Statistics surrounding the economy of an isolated country are notoriously unreliable. And the country’s international vision was further weakened after most foreign diplomats and international aid workers based in Pyongyang were forced to leave the country. Their movements had been restricted as part of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Yet many experts believe North Korea is facing its worst economic recession since the 1990s. A triple blow of strict border closures, trade sanctions and damage from floods and typhoons last year has hammered the economy.
South Korea urged the international community to consider easing sanctions and increasing aid to North Koreans.
But Pyongyang has resisted foreign aid to provide aid and vaccines over fears of transmission of the coronavirus. The country also continues to advance its nuclear weapons program and flout sanctions to raise funds through illicit activities, including illegal imports and cyber crimes.
Fears over North Korea come as Joe Biden’s administration examines US policy toward the country. Analysts broadly expect humanitarian aid to be allowed under the new policy, but significant easing of sanctions likely hinges on verifiable steps towards denuclearization.