North Korea’s Kim pledges thousands of new homes as economic push begins

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a damage recovery site affected by heavy rains and winds caused by recent typhoons, in Geomdeok district, South Hamgyong province, in North Korea, in this photo supplied by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to build at least 25,000 homes over the next five years as citizens begin an 80-day campaign to achieve economic goals despite growing crises, state media said on Wednesday.

North Korea has had a tough year grappling with typhoons that battered towns, international sanctions and the impact of anti-coronavirus measures, despite no reports of infections, to the disbelief of U.S. and South Korean officials.

Visiting one of the areas worst hit by the recent typhoons, Kim expressed regret over the decades-old homes that were destroyed and urged the military for a more ambitious construction plan, state news agency KCNA said.

The visit came after Kim appeared to shed tears at the weekend when thanking citizens for their sacrifices, in the most striking demonstration yet of how he is relying on his “man-of-the-people” image to tackle the crises.

Last week, Kim urged North Korea to launch an 80-day “speed” campaign to attain economic goals before a congress in January that will decide on a new five-year plan.

“Workers in all sectors and units of the national economy are coming out in the all-out campaign,” KCNA said on Wednesday.

The effort focuses on boosting production of unspecified materials and equipment, harvesting seasonal crops, storm relief work, and steps to prevent any virus outbreak, KCNA added.

Analysts say such campaigns, which require citizens to provide “voluntary” extra labour, are a common, short-term resort for North Korean leaders aiming to resolve economic woes.

The military was more than halfway to its goal of building 2,300 houses in South Hamgyong province, northeast of the capital, Pyongyang, state media said.

Kim called for a “revolution” in construction plans, starting with building 25,000 houses during the five-year plan set to be unveiled in January.

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