North Korea launched its first productivity campaign in four years to funnel workers and resources to major projects in a bid to revive an economy walloped by sanctions and flooding from typhoons.
Leader Kim Jong Un called for an “80-day battle” at a Politburo meeting of his ruling Workers’ Party, its official Korean Central News Agency reported on Tuesday. “We still face the challenges that cannot be overlooked and there are many goals we have to attain within this year,” a report from the meeting said.
Kim last issued a similar call in 2016 to finish up projects before a Party Congress, according to NK News. North Korea’s latest campaign is aimed at completing projects in time for the rare political gathering in January of the next Party Congress, when Kim’s regime is expected to lay out a new five-year plan for the economy and revamp its leadership lineup.
Worst Since 1997
North Korea’s economy may shrink the most since mid-1990’s crisis
This year North Korea is heading toward its biggest economic contraction since 1997, according to Fitch Solutions, as the coronavirus led to border closures and flooding destroyed large swathes of crops. Kim issued a rare warning for North Korea’s economy in August, telling party leaders that his country “faced unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects,” adding his development goals had been “seriously delayed.”
The productivity campaigns allow North Korea to divert resources and personnel to what its leaders see as top-priority projects, offering quick fixes for an economy facing shortages of oil, building materials and cash due to sanctions related to its nuclear weapons program. In recent months, Kim has lashed out at cadres over what he saw as lax virus management and blasted the people responsible constructing his showcase Pyongyang General Hospital, saying they were flouting party policies and being “careless” with spending.
During the Politburo meeting on Monday, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party Ri Pyong Chol, and chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army Pak Jong Chon were promoted to marshals of the KPA, according to KCNA.
North Korea on Saturday is set for major festivities to celebrate the 75th anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party. Satellite images indicate that Kim is preparing for a military parade, which he has used before to show off his latest missiles.
This time North Korea watchers are looking for an intercontinental ballistic missile that incorporates solid-fuel technology, which would be quicker to deploy and launch than the current liquid-fuel models. That would give the U.S. less time to take it out on the pad or intercept the rocket in the air.