North Korea’s Kim Says Five-Year Economic Plan Failed ‘Tremendously’

January 6, 2021 Updated: January 6, 2021

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged that the communist regime failed to produce on nearly every front of his five-year economic plan.

In a gathering of the ruling Workers’ Party on Jan. 6, Kim told other cadres that the five-year “strategy was due last year but it tremendously fell short of goals on almost every sector,” according to state-run media. Photos of the event showed top aides, including sister Kim Yo Jong, had accompanied him.

The Workers’ Party meeting hasn’t been held in about five years, which was when Kim first introduced the economic blueprint. The Soviet Union and China under Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong, respectively, as well as other communist states, have used five-year plans in an attempt to develop their economies, although historians and other experts have said these plans have led to unprecedented famines—such as the one that occurred during China’s second five-year plan—and other hardships.

Kim again called for self-reliance to boost the country’s economy.

“The key to breaking through the existing manifold difficulties with utmost certainty and speed lies in consolidating our own strength, our internal force, in all respects,” he said, according to Yonhap.

Using Marxist terminology referring to class struggle, Kim said he’ll suggest “the key line of struggle and strategic and tactical policies” for “the cause of national reunification, promoting external relations and strengthening the work of the Party.” Reunification refers to relations between North and South Korea.

Kim didn’t mention South Korea or the U.S. presidential election. The dictator held several meetings with President Donald Trump, although there has been little progress on denuclearization talks since 2019.

Also during the address, Kim also thanked workers to create “stable situations against the coronavirus from beginning to end.”

“They had resolutely overcome difficulties in the face of an unprecedentedly prolonged, unparalleled global health crisis,” he added.

Since the start of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, North Korea—which shares a border with China, where the virus is believed to have originated—hasn’t confirmed a single case of the virus but has reported “suspected” cases to the World Health Organization.

Yonhap, citing state media photos, reported that Kim wore a black Mao-style jacket and arrived at the event in a black Mercedez-Benz sedan.

Lists of participants released by KCNA showed that since the 2016 congress, nearly 75 percent, or 29 of 39 leaders who took the podium, have been replaced, as Kim sacked many of his father’s longtime confidants, weakened the powerful military, and promoted relatively younger loyalists, including his sister.

Experts expect further leadership changes to be announced over the remaining days of the meeting.

Kim usually gives a New Year address that maps out blueprints for his diplomatic, military, and economic policy but skipped it this year. Analysts said he will likely give a message once the congress is over.

Reuters contributed to this report.