Kim Jong Un delivers speech on food and school uniforms

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended his 10th year in power with a speech that mentioned tractor factories and school uniforms more than nuclear weapons or the United States. As reported by al-Jazeera on its website on Saturday (01/01/2021).

North Korea’s main goal for 2022 is to start economic development and improve people’s lives as it faces a “great life-and-death struggle,” Kim said in a speech on Friday at the end of the 4th Plenary Meeting at the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), which began on Monday.

The meeting coincides with the 10th anniversary of Kim effectively taking over the country’s leadership after his father’s death in 2011.

Kim has used previous speeches around the New Year to make major policy announcements, including launching significant diplomatic engagements with South Korea and the United States.

But a summary of his speech published in North Korean state media made no specific mention of the US, referring only to unspecified discussions on inter-Korean relations and “external affairs”.

The domestic focus of the speech underscored the economic crisis Kim faces at home as a result of the self-imposed lockdown. It is this lockdown that has left North Korea more isolated than ever.

“The basic task facing the people next year is to provide strong guarantees to implement the five-year plan and make tremendous changes in national development and people’s lives,” Kim said.

Kim spent much of his speech detailing domestic issues, from ambitious plans for rural development to people’s diets, school uniforms and the need to crack down on “non-socialist practices”.

He cited military advances as a significant achievement last year and discussed the “militant task” facing national defense in 2022. The tractor factory he delivered in the speech is also likely to be used to build missile launch site, foreign analysts said. North Korea is believed to have expanded its arsenal despite its isolation.

A big focus on rural development is likely a populist strategy, said Chad O’Carroll, founder of NK News, a Seoul-based website that researches North Korea.

“Overall, Kim may be aware that revealing a sophisticated military development plan while people suffer from food shortages and harsh conditions outside Pyongyang is not a good idea this year,” he wrote on Twitter.

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