North Korea prepares for key party congress as challenges mount

The first congress in more than four years will take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a change in US President.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is preparing for a rare party congress, which will take place in early January [KCNA/via Reuters]

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a Politburo meeting on preparations for a rare party congress in early January that is expected to set new economic and political goals for the country, state media reported on Wednesday.

The meeting on Tuesday approved agendas and proposals to be presented at the congress – the first by the ruling Workers’ Party in more than four years – and agreed to hold the event early next month, state news agency KCNA reported, without specifying an exact date.

North Korea has faced a number of challenges in 2020 with COVID-19 and a series of typhoons adding to the pressure on an economy already battered by international sanctions aimed at bringing an end to its nuclear programme.

The country also faces a new face in the White House with the departure of President Donald Trump – who engaged in a number of historic meetings with leader Kim Jong Un – and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden in January.

The Politburo agreed to hold the next Workers Party congress in early January but state media did not confirm a date [KCNA/via Reuters]

North Korea has not commented on the change in leadership in the United States and it is not yet clear what Biden’s presidency will mean for relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

In October, Kim called on his country to embark on an 80-day campaign to achieve its goals in every economic sector before the congress.

“All the preparations for the Party congress are going off smoothly,” KCNA reported.

The congress last met in 2016, where Kim announced the first five-year economic plan since the 1980s and promised to not use nuclear weapons unless the country’s sovereignty was violated by others with nuclear arms. It was also when Kim was officially elected to the position of chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party.

North Korea says it has not had any coronavirus cases, but it also closed its borders to nearly all traffic in a bid to prevent an outbreak.

Source: News Agencies