North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has admitted economic policy mistakes at the start of a new congress of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media reported on Wednesday.
Goals of the five-year development plan established in 2016 had been missed “in most areas,” Kim said in his opening speech on Tuesday in Pyongyang, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim promised the party would find a new way to make a “radical leap forward” and avoid repeating “painful lessons.”
Formally, the congress, which was originally supposed to be held every five years, is the party’s most important body.
However, the seventh congress in May 2016 was the first in 36 years.
The congress will review the work of the party’s central committee and present a new development plan for the next five years.
The party already admitted mistakes in the implementation of the previous strategy in August.
Kim also spoke of the “wonderful victories” the country had achieved in the past five years, strengthening its power and global prestige and praised the party for keeping the coronavirus pandemic at bay.
A series of natural disasters, including floods and storm damage, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, have taken their toll on the reclusive country, which is also subject to international sanctions because of its nuclear weapons programme.
North Korea moved swiftly to close its borders as the coronavirus spread last March, strongly impacting foreign trade with China, which is considered the country’s lifeline.
South Korean media had earlier speculated that Kim might issue new economic policy guidelines and outline a new approach to relations with the U.S. and South Korea, though in his speech he did not mention either country.
South Korea hopes the party congress will “provide an opportunity to contribute to peace on the Korean Peninsula and the progress of inter-Korean relations,” the Unification Ministry in Seoul said in a statement.
North Korea is one of the few countries in the world yet to report a single coronavirus case, though international observers have thrown doubt on the claim that the virus is not circulating there.
Pictures from the congress showed participants sitting close together and not wearing protective masks. (dpa/NAN)