Despite long denying - or at least never confirming - that his country has a severe COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in its midst, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued extremely rare public biting criticism of the reaction of top government officials in a speech published Wednesday. He basically admitted government "failure" to handle a national health crisis, again which comes long after Pyongyang has carefully hidden how coronavirus may have impacted the isolated country for more than the past year.
Further his remarks in state media sparked widespread speculation given his reference to a mysterious "grave incident" - or elsewhere translated as a "great crisis" which threatened the "safety of the country and its people".
"By neglecting important decisions of the party in its national emergency antivirus fight in preparations for a global health crisis, officials in charge have caused a grave incident that poses a huge crisis to the safety of the nation and its people," state-run KCNA cited Kim as saying.
"A major factor that hampers the execution of important tasks is inability and irresponsibility of senior officials," he added. "Party-wide fight should be carried out against ideological defects and all kinds of negative factors found among senior officials."
The Workers’ Party of Korea politburo meeting where the address was made highlighted what's increasingly looking like an unprecedented level of inter-government infighting within the reclusive nation.
It's no doubt also connected to the acknowledged national food crisis of the past months. Earlier in June Kim admitted to senior leaders that "The people's food situation is now getting tense". He's also recently emerged looking unusually gaunt himself, setting off questions over his health, given how rapidly it appears he lost the weight.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chastised top ruling party officials for failures in anti-epidemic work that led to an unspecified ‘great crisis’ and put the safety of the country and people at risk, state media reports https://t.co/rFjGQQH0QY pic.twitter.com/VwAjf84IA4— Reuters (@Reuters) June 30, 2021
Last year's typhoon season left the agricultural sector devastated at a time the north took extreme measures to isolate the population from the global pandemic, sealing of the borders, which also impacted food and medicines making it across the border.
Weeks ago NK News reported that a kilogram of bananas, for example, has hit $45 and that whole swathes of the population could face starvation. This latest speech by Kim confirms that North Korea is desperately attempting to stave off disaster, whether the possibly unprecedented foot shortage emergency, or the equally unprecedented pandemic situation.