01/18/2021, 16.10
NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang's new economic plan lacks reform elements

North Korea’s parliament ratified the decisions Kim Jong-un presented at the last congress of the Workers' Party of Korea. Self-sufficiency remains the goal to limit the effects of the pandemic and international sanctions. Officials held responsible for the latest economic failures were punished.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – North Korea’s parliament approved the country’s new five-year economic plan over the weekend, state media announced today.

The rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly ratified the decisions taken by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that he presented at a rare congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, which came to power after the Second World War. The eight-day meeting ended on 12 January.

 In addition to boosting the country’s military capabilities, Kim urged North Koreans to wage a “do-or-die struggle” to implement his new economic strategy. At the start of the congress, Kim had admitted that the previous plan was a failure.

To get the country out of its current crisis, North Korea’s strongman wants to focus on self-sufficiency to limit the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and US sponsored international sanctions.

For years North Korea has been isolated from the international community (except for China and to a lesser extent Russia) under restrictions imposed because of its nuclear and missile programmes.

Despite three summits and apparent good relations with Donald Trump, nuclear negotiations with Washington have been stalled for some time.

North Korea is in a very difficult situation. The coronavirus emergency and a series of summer typhoons have battered an economy already devastated by sanctions.

Kim said he wanted to introduce innovations in sectors such as construction, transport and communications, with a particular focus on mobile telephony. He is also betting on the development of a national nuclear energy industry.

However, despite the announcements, there is no record of the regime's commitment to economic reforms, according to 38 North, a website dedicated to North Korean affairs.

What remains is the traditional communist approach to economics, with the state dominating markets and politics ruling over economics. In fact, the North Korean regime appears to still favour “old” sectors, such as heavy industry and chemicals.

The only real changes are those at the top of the government. Six deputy premiers responsible for economic policy have been replaced.

In his address to the Supreme People's Assembly, Premier Kim Tok-hun said that the personnel changes were due to “serious mistakes” by those who implemented the previous five-year plan.

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