SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has paid his second visit in a week to one of the sites of his ambitious project to build 50,000 new apartments in Pyongyang, and called for a renewed push on housing development, state media reported on Thursday.
Kim’s focus on domestic economic affairs comes just a week after North Korea launched two ballistic missiles into the sea near Japan, underscoring progress in its weapons programme and ramping up pressure on the United States.
The leader broke ground for 10,000 new apartments in the capital city of Pyongyang last week, despite economic crises that have left other signature construction projects stalled.
KCNA reported that Kim stressed the importance of housing construction and called it one of urgent problems to improve the citizens’ standard of living.
“Strict supervision over every construction process must be exercised, building-materials economised in every way with high demand, accidents of all kinds prevented and excellent construction experience introduced…” Kim said, according to KCNA.
The leader had announced an ambitious new plan for the next five years in January, aimed at developing North Korea’s economy.
However, the projects face major challenges, including international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.
Drastic measures taken by North Korea to contain COVID-19 have exacerbated human rights abuses and economic hardship for its citizens, including reports of starvation, the United Nations had said.
While North Korea has yet to officially report any confirmed coronavirus cases, many experts doubt that the North, which shares borders with China and South Korea, has not detected any infections.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Sam Holmes)