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N Korea’s Kim orders legal supervision over economic plan

February 11, 2021 GMT
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends at a meeting of Central Committee of Worker’s Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korean, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends at a meeting of Central Committee of Worker’s Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korean, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered tougher legal supervision to support his development plans and eradicate various economy-related unlawful acts, state media said Thursday, as he works to salvage an economy battered by the pandemic and other challenges.

Kim spoke Wednesday during a Workers’ Party meeting convened to follow up on decisions made at the ruling party’s congress in January, where he admitted previous economic plans had failed and announced a new five-year development plan.

Kim “stressed the importance to strengthen legal supervision and control over the establishment and executive process of the national economic plan,” the official Korean Central News Agency said.

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He said prosecutors and other law enforcement organizations must do more to ensure the economic plan is correctly executed and “stage a strong legal struggle for checking all kinds of illegal practices revealed in economic activities.” Kim added that “all sectors and units should obey them unconditionally,” KCNA said.

North Korea’s top prosecutor U Sang Chol told the party meeting that he will firmly implement Kim’s order. He said he’ll “offensively” keep legal watch over agencies violating the socialist economic management order and take “powerful measures” against any acts hampering efforts to strengthen industries, according to KCNA.

Kim faces what appears to be the toughest crisis of his nine-year rule as the already-troubled economy is hit by pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North’s external trade, a spate of natural disasters last summer and persistent U.S.-led sanctions. During the party congress, Kim described the difficulties as the “worst-ever.”

The new five-year plan centers on building a stronger self-supporting economy, reducing reliance on imports, making more investments in the metal and chemical industries and increasing production of consumer goods. But some analysts say the new plan still lacks substance, noting that North Korea’s difficulties result from decades of mismanagement, self-imposed isolation and the sanctions imposed because of its nuclear program.

North Korea’s push to boost legal control over the economic plan shows Kim is “desperate to report progress over the new five-year plan to secure a stability of the Kim Jong Un government,” said Kim Dong-yub, an analyst from Seoul’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.

He said punishment for those embroiled in alleged corruption, negligence and incompetence will likely be harsh.

Kim’s Wednesday speech on the third day of the plenary session of the party’s Central Committee followed earlier secessions where he criticized government agencies for “passive and self-protecting tendencies.” Kim also set forth unspecified future action to be taken by agencies responsible for external and South Korean affairs. State media dispatches carrying Kim’s remarks have not mentioned the United States and deadlocked nuclear diplomacy.

During January’s congress, Kim disclosed an array of sophisticated weapons under development and vowed to enlarge his nuclear arsenal to cope with what he called intensifying U.S. hostility. He said the fate of relations between North Korea and the U.S. depends on Washington.