North Korea's Kim fires new economy minister, blasts cabinet for unambitious plans

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Hyonhee Shin
·2 min read
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By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sacked his economy chief, who was only appointed last month, and denounced his cabinet for a lack of innovation in drafting goals for a new five-year economic plan, state media reported on Friday.

The ruling Workers' Party wrapped up its four-day plenary meeting on Thursday, where Kim also mapped out his vision for inter-Korean affairs and relations with other countries, as well as party rules and personnel issues.

With the economy topping the agenda, Kim reviewed action plans for his new five-year strategy which was unveiled at last month's party congress amid international sanctions, a prolonged border closure and reduced outside aid due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He accused the cabinet of drafting plans with "no big changes" from previous ones, which he has said had "failed tremendously on almost every sector."

The committee appointed O Su Yong, a longtime economic policymaker who previously served as a vice premier, to be the new director of its Department of Economic Affairs, replacing Kim Tu Il who was appointed in January.

"The idea and policy of the party congress are not properly reflected in the proposed plan for economic work for this year and innovative viewpoint and clear tactics can't be found," Kim told the meeting, according to the official KCNA news agency.

"The cabinet failed to play a leading role in mapping out plans of key economic fields and almost mechanically brought together the numbers drafted by the ministries."

As a result, plans for some sectors were unrealistically elevated and others had tasks that were already easily achievable, he added.

The party decided to build 10,000 homes in capital Pyongyang this year, replacing a previous construction plan that Kim described as too low and a product of "self-protectionism and defeatism" in the bureaucracy.

State television footage showed an angry looking Kim yelling, finger pointing and striking the podium as he addressed the meeting.

He also called for enhanced self-reliance and the local production of goods and materials, KCNA said, after trade with China, which accounts for about 90% of shipments into and out of North Korea, plunged more than 80% last year due to strict COVID-19 lockdowns.

As part of its personnel changes, the committee also promoted Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon to the politburo shortly after reinstating him as an alternate member of the powerful governing body.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Minwoo Park; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)