North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a rare confession at his ruling Workers’ Party’s first congress since 2016. He admitted to his fellow worshipers that his vaunted five-year economic plan is a failure.
Kim, who was flanked by rows of bemedaled military and civilian officials, stated bluntly that there had been “mistakes” in “the implementation of the national economic development strategy,” as reported by the Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang.
As more than 3,000 delegates alternated between diligently taking notes and clapping loudly, Kim “analyzed the current states of key industrial sectors,” according to KCNA, and found fault with all “including metal, chemicals, l ‘electricity, coal, machinery and mining industries. “
Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong, among 29 people whose promotion to the presidium of 39 party members, the internal council responsible for carrying out President Kim’s diktats, has been revealed in a long list of names. at the end of the KCNA shipment. The fact that Yo Jong has risen so visibly to the top layer shows her rising star in a bureaucracy in which she already dominates the multi-tentacle organization and guidance department. Now 33, she is four years younger than her brother, who turns 37 on Friday.
And the fact that 29 of the former members lost their presidium positions suggested a purge, a rejection of blame, which has been glossed over but not unnoticed.
It is the recognition of Kim’s failure, after a year of pandemic, typhoons and floods, and US and UN sanctions, that has come as the most astonishing revelation of his own weakness as well as that of the bureaucracy of his party. Kim would not admit personal failure, however, preferring to suggest that the men around her were responsible while coming closer than ever before in acknowledging the problems of a country whose ordinary citizens are on the verge of hunger and of disease.
Incredibly, however, in an apparent effort to maintain the pretext that no one at all came down with COVID-19, the delegates, whose usual job is to keep citizens in check, were seated side by side in the cavernous room. . , devoid of face masks and ignoring all this advice on social distancing.
Kim’s shock economic confession was a surprising way to start the country’s 8th Party Congress in which he will no doubt revere the armed forces.
The fact that he did not embark on this tangent immediately after having made the usual obedience to “the accomplishment of the cause of national reunification”, suggests that he could take it easy in the face of militarist threats afterwards. inauguration of Joe Biden as president in two weeks.
Certainly, Kim has not yet followed the example of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the only real ally and source of economic support for the North, in congratulating Biden on his victory over President Donald Trump, with whom he has established such a personal relationship. during their three meetings. . He might want to see where Biden’s team are going, however, before they engage in some difficult discussions, let alone fire a few missiles.
Kim’s closest to wielding the nuclear threat has been to tell party supporters that “the key to overcoming the many existing difficulties with the greatest certainty and speed lies in the consolidation of our own strength, our internal strength, all of us. regards ”after five years of“ unprecedented testing, the worst ever. “
Analysts had no doubt, however, that Kim would not wait long before speaking about the need to strengthen the country’s military force in accordance with a policy known as “byungjin” for the simultaneous development of the armed forces and economy.
Kim’s keynote “contained very little about foreign policy and defense other than a slant reference to the nuclear program and the” strong guarantee “it provides to” protect the homeland, “Revere said. , former senior diplomat at the US Embassy in Seoul. “In the days and weeks to come, we can expect him to say more about these issues.”
As for Kim Yo Jong’s rise, he said, “She has steadily grown in power and influence as Kim Jong Un’s most trusted advisor. There was ‘good reason to believe that’ she will be rewarded for her loyalty ”, but“ you have to be careful not to shine too brightly while her star continues to rise ”.
Besides the classic rhetorical flourishes, Kim’s remarks were full of allusions to economic issues that might hint at internal difficulties within his own party and the government bureaucracy.
“Last year has been a pretty difficult year,” he said at one point, launching into an explanation of the pandemic that failed to admit the real impact of the disease on his people. “Under the circumstances of the global public health crisis which has lasted unprecedented in history,” he said, in one way or another, his people had “constantly ensured a stable and complete situation. in the prevention of infectious diseases by stubbornly overcoming difficulties.
Now, he said, “Here we represent the fate, the future, the ingenuity and the wisdom of millions of members of the Workers’ Party of Korea and tens of millions of Koreans.
The oratory covered up serious doubts about Kim’s security and hold over his people.
“Kim recognizes that his elites receive a lot of outside information and know that the regime is not infallible,” said Bruce Bennett, Korean expert at Rand. “Note that Kim wouldn’t have said he failed – he said the country failed. Better for him to blame the country.
One specific problem, Bennett said, is that Kim’s ubiquitous security apparatus is “ineffective and corrupt – failing to apply its power properly and not controlling the North Korean people.”
Under these circumstances, said Lee Sang-yoon, professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, “Political theater like this Congress not only unites the party and the nation, but also increases Kim’s net worth. It was, Lee said, “like a star free agent athlete going out of his way to win the next big contract.”
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