North Korea opens rare ruling party congress: KCNA

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Seoul (AFP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday opened a rare convention of the ruling Workers’ Party, which is expected to present a new economic and political plan, state media reported.

The congress is the first such meeting in five years, only the eighth in North Korean history, and comes weeks before US President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Relations with the United States have stalled since talks between President Donald Trump and Kim stalled.

Pyongyang is also under increasing financial pressure, as the coronavirus pandemic and summer flooding strained its declining economy even more.

“The 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) opened in Pyongyang,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

“The Supreme Leader reviewed the brilliant successes achieved by our Party and its people during the reporting period,” he continued.

“He also analyzed the errors manifested in the efforts to implement the five-year strategy. ”

North Korea has suffered from chronic economic mismanagement, and a previous plan was quietly abandoned earlier this year, with a party meeting in August concluding that “targets for improving the national economy have been seriously delayed.” .

In October, Kim ordered an 80-day nationwide campaign to stimulate the economy ahead of the January convention, with extra-long working hours and extra duties for workers.

A similar surge occurred ahead of the Seventh Congress in 2016, which saw a new five-year economic plan announced, beginning with a 200-day mass mobilization campaign.

North Korea’s economic situation has been worsened by international sanctions imposed in response to its ballistic and nuclear missile programs, which have made rapid progress under Kim’s leadership.

Nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and the Trump administration were halted after the collapse of the Hanoi summit in early 2019 on sanctions relief.

The new US president called Kim a “thug”, while Pyongyang called Biden a “mad dog”.

By holding the congress before he takes office, Kim “may want to anticipate rather than react to the policies of the Biden administration,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Kim’s 2016 convention was the first in North Korea in 36 years.

State media broadcast images of hordes of costumed party cadres and uniformed military officials descending on the capital, and the end of the congress was marked by a huge civil parade.

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