North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated senior ruling party officials for failures in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic which led to an unspecified “serious incident” and put the safety of the country and people in danger, state media reported on Wednesday.
The report by state-run KCNA news agency did not specify what happened, or how it put people at risk, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.
“By disregarding important decisions of the party in its national fight against emergency antiviruses for a global health crisis, officials have caused a serious incident that poses a serious crisis for the security of the nation and its people.” Kim said. Yonhap as said.
“A major factor that hinders the performance of important tasks is the incapacity and irresponsibility of senior officials,” he added.
“The party-wide struggle must be waged against the ideological flaws and all kinds of negative factors found among senior officials.”
North Korea has not officially confirmed any cases of the coronavirus, a claim disputed by South Korean and American officials.
But the reclusive country has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and restrictions on domestic travel.
Kim called a meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea politburo to address the dereliction of duties by some party leaders, including failing to implement important long-term measures to deal with the pandemic, KCNA said.
The politburo meeting came 11 days after the country held a high-profile four-day Labor Party plenary session for the third time this year.
Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said Kim’s comments could be taken as an indication that health conditions have deteriorated and that the government is making the necessary political preparations to accept vaccines against the disease. coronavirus from abroad.
“So far, Kim’s regime has doubled its international isolation during the pandemic,” he said in an email. “It is unfortunate that there are so few diplomats and aid workers from other countries currently in North Korea. Without many eyes and ears on the ground, it is increasingly difficult to assess the situation, and without their trusting hands, it will be more difficult to provide help to those in need. Not needed anymore. ”
Several members of the political bureau, secretaries of the central committee and heads of several state agencies were replaced at the meeting, although KCNA did not clarify whether the upheavals were related to neglect of duty related to the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, North Korean state media have highlighted efforts to fight the coronavirus and officials have urged people to remain vigilant.
Kim himself tearfully thanked his people for not having had any cases during a military parade in October.
Nonetheless, Pyongyang’s coronavirus defense has come at a cost.
Its self-imposed and strictly enforced blockade has left it more isolated than ever: trade with Beijing – its economic lifeline – has shrunk to a net as all international aid workers have left the country.
This month, Pyongyang admitted it was tackling a food crisis, sounding the alarm bells in a nation with a dying agricultural sector that has long struggled to feed itself.
Earlier, Kim warned his people to prepare for the “worst situation ever.”
Pyongyang has sought to bolster its loyalty to the authorities, with state television showing last week a resident of the capital expressing concern and saying that everyone was “heartbroken” at Kim’s “emaciated” condition, has lost a lot of weight in recent weeks.
Analysts said Pyongyang is using Kim’s appearance as a way to glorify him by describing him as a “dedicated and hardworking” leader as the country struggles to cope with its food crisis and other challenges.
In recent months, Kim has sent a series of long letters to the regime’s organizations, such as the Youth League and the Trade Union Federation, urging them to seek “loyalty and patriotism.”
At the same time, authorities have launched a campaign against young “criminals” tarnished by foreign influences who are “dangerous poisons” to state ideology, according to KCNA.