North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has accused top officials of “self-protection and defeatism” and largely blamed them for the country’s economic plight, state media reported Friday.
At a meeting of top cadres, state news agency KCNA said Kim had “sharply criticised” officials responsible for laying out plans for various sectors’ growth this year, saying they did not reflect the “idea and policy” announced at January’s Party Congress.
That Congress, the first of its kind in five years and only the eighth in North Korea’s history, set out a new economic plan.
But it also revealed the extent of the isolated country’s financial woes, with Kim repeatedly apologising for mistakes in economic management and saying the last five years had been the “worst” time.
Wrapping up the four-day meeting, Kim was quoted Friday as slamming officials for their lack of “innovative viewpoint and clear tactics” in solving those issues.
In one example of poor performance, he singled out agriculture officials who had set grain production targets “irrespective of present situation where farming condition is unfavourable and the state is unable to supply enough farming materials”, in an unusually candid account.
Other sectors were lambasted for “absurdly low” production quotas, with officials accused of “trying to find a breather and make pretence of doing work.”
North Korea is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, which have made rapid progress under Kim.
A summit between Kim and then-US president Donald Trump in Hanoi in February 2019 broke down over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return.
Nuclear talks have been stalled ever since, while North Korea showed off several new missiles at military parades in October and last month, when Kim pledged to strengthen his nuclear arsenal.
Pyongyang is also under increasing financial pressure as the coronavirus pandemic and floods last summer put its flagging economy under yet more strain.