Dictator Kim Jong Un wants North Korea to be recognized as a nuclear power by the new US administration. Corona hit the economy hard.
SHANGHAI taz | Even the greatest optimist was probably robbed of the hope of a nuclear-free North Korea by ruler Kim Jong Un on Wednesday: Everything must be done to “further strengthen the nuclear war deterrent,” said Kim at the end of the eight-day party congress, on which the future political direction is specified.
And it is clear: the international community – above all the “main enemy” USA – would do better to finally recognize North Korea as a nuclear power.
Just a few days before Joe Biden’s assumption of office in Washington, Pyongyang is cementing the status quo on the divided peninsula even more firmly. Another constant of the past few years will probably return: the North Korean regime’s regular missile and nuclear tests.
Military build-up is undoubtedly coming from a position of weakness. Because Pyongyang has had little reason to be self-confident since last year. Already during his New Year’s address, dictator Kim admitted the failure of his five-year economic plan with astonishing frankness: In almost all areas, the desired economic goals were clearly missed.
Hardly any more sugar and cooking oil
Ironically, the corona pandemic has done what the United States failed to do with its years of sanctions: to completely isolate North Korea from foreign trade. According to estimates, this has fallen by a further 80 percent from its already low level.
Even though the employees of almost all embassies and international aid organizations have long since been evacuated in the midst of the lockdown, anecdotal information still occasionally reaches abroad: the specialist medium NK News reports, for example, that even the exclusive supermarkets in the capital Pyongyang, by far the wealthiest region, hardly sell any sugar or cooking oil.
Well-known experts such as Andrei Lankov, a Korean scholar from Kookmin University in Seoul, speak of the greatest challenge the regime has faced since the famine in the 1990s. At that time, hundreds of thousands of North Koreans died as a result of malnutrition.
The explanation for the current crisis is simple: For fear of the virus, the government was the first in the world to completely close its national borders and will probably be the last to reopen them. Because with a catastrophic health system and a largely undernourished population, Covid-19 is an even greater danger for North Korea than for others. At the same time, the paranoid regime suspects potential spies behind foreign virologists or development workers.
Kim’s sister out of the way
Despite the fragile situation, there is now nothing to suggest that the system is about to collapse. On the contrary: Kim Jong Un confidently had himself awarded the title of General Secretary of the Labor Party at the party congress – an honor that has so far been reserved for his late father Kim Jong Il.
The main surprise was that Kim’s sister is no longer included in the current membership list of the Politburo. On the one hand, the 32-year-old Kim Yo Jong ensured something like North Korean soft power on trips abroad such as during the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang 2018 and had a rapid career in the regime.
Their devaluation may have something to do with Kim Jong Un’s attempt to clear up rumors about his possible successor. Because of his allegedly poor health – seriously overweight and chain smoker – many media saw his younger sister as a potential heir to the throne.