North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened a major political conference dedicated to agriculture, state media reported Monday, as outside assessments suggest the country is facing a serious shortfall of food.
South Korean experts estimate that North Korea is short around 1 million tons of grain, nearly 20 percent of its annual demand, after the pandemic likely disrupted unofficial grain imports from China and the government has restricted food sales at markets.
Recent, unconfirmed reports in South Korean media have said that some North Koreans have died of hunger. But most experts have seen no indication of mass deaths or famine in North Korea.
During a high-level meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party that began Sunday, senior party officials reviewed last year’s work on state goals to accomplish “rural revolution in the new era,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
The report said that the plenary meeting of the party’s Central Committee will identify “immediate, important” tasks on agricultural issues and “urgent tasks arising at the present stage of the national economic development.”
KCNA didn’t say whether Kim spoke during the meeting or how long it would last. Senior officials such as Cabinet Premier Kim Tok Hun and Jo Yong Won, one of Kim’s closest aides who handles the Central Committee’s organizational affairs, also attended.
Plenary meetings are key decision-making venues for the Workers’ Party. In recent years, Kim has held a plenary meeting two to four times a year to formulate major policies.
It is the first time the party has convened a plenary session only to discuss agriculture. Monday’s report didn’t elaborate on its agenda, but the party’s Politburo said earlier this month that “a turning point is needed to dynamically promote radical change in agricultural development.”