North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated top officials for failures in coronavirus prevention that caused a “great crisis” raising the specter of a mass outbreak in a country that would be scarcely able to handle it.
The state media report on Wednesday did not elaborate on the “crucial” lapse that had prompted Kim to call the Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.
So far, North Korea has claimed to have had no coronavirus infections.
At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized the senior officials for supposed incompetence, irresponsibility and passiveness in planning and executing anti-virus measures amid the lengthening pandemic, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign,” according to the KCNA.
This “caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences.”
The report also said the party recalled an unspecified member of the Politburo’s powerful Presidium, which consists of Kim and four other top officials.
The reference indicated Kim may replace his Cabinet Premier Kim Tok Hun, who would be held responsible for failures in the government’s anti-epidemic work, said Hong Min, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification.
“This (chastising) could mean mass infections or some sort of situation where a lot of people were put at direct risk of infections.”
Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute, expressed a similar view, saying the North is potentially dealing with huge virus-related problems in border towns near China, such as Sinuiju or Hyesan.
He said the Presidium member Kim Jong Un sacked could possibly be Jo Yong Won, a secretary of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee who had been seen as a fast-rising figure in Pyongyang’s leadership circle.