SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for building a “prosperous country” in a major policy guideline published Friday, a day after he told a visiting Chinese delegation that he was focused on “developing the economy and improving people’s livelihoods.”
On Friday, North Korean media carried the text of a lengthy talk they said Kim gave to leading officials of the ruling Workers’ Party on July 26. The talk was the latest in a series of speeches and statements Kim has issued in which he sounded more focused on tackling North Korea’s moribund economy than his father, Kim Jong Il, who championed a military-first policy.
“Developing the economy and improving livelihoods so that the Korean people lead happy and civilized lives is the goal the Workers’ Party is struggling toward,” Kim Jong Un said when he met Wang Jiarui, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, on Thursday, according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
China’s help is crucial to an economic revitalization program Kim is reportedly pursuing after he ousted a hard-line military general, Marshal Ri Yong Ho, from the top decision-making bodies of the party last month.
North Korea’s reliance on China has deepened as international sanctions have tightened and outside aid has dwindled following the country’s nuclear and long-range missile tests in recent years. It requested urgent humanitarian assistance after heavy flooding killed more than 100 people and inflicted extensive damage to its farmland, the United Nations said Thursday.
Wang led the first foreign delegation Kim has received for formal bilateral talks since he took over leadership in North Korea after his father’s death in December. Official media in both countries quoted Kim and Wang as promising to consolidate their countries’ traditional friendship. South Korean media speculated that Wang’s visit may be followed by a trip to Beijing by Kim.
For years, Chinese leaders have urged North Korea to follow their route to market economic reform. But so far, the regime in Pyongyang has only dabbled in such experiments.
In his latest lecture to party officials, Kim called for “steadfast confidence in justice of the Socialist system and victory of socialism.”
Yet he has recently begun indicating a shift in policy focus. Now that his father’s military-first policy has turned North Korea into “a world-level military power,” he said in his recent speeches and talks that North Korea must now try harder to “improve the livelihoods of the people and build an economically prosperous country.”