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North Korea floods: Kim criticizes his “irresponsible” government

North Korea floods: Kim criticizes his “irresponsible” government

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized his government’s “irresponsible” handling of floods linked to the recent storm Khanun, state media reported on Tuesday.

The footage shows Kim in a flooded rice paddy in Namphu district, knee-deep in water, giving instructions to stern-looking officials, as well as taking notes while standing in the water.

He said, according to what was quoted by the official Korean Central News Agency, that the damage “was not a disaster caused by natural disasters, but a humanitarian disaster due to the irresponsibility … of lazy people.”

According to the KCNA, Kim “severely blamed” government officials, particularly targeting Prime Minister Kim Tok Hun. The agency added that the latter “walked around the site once or twice in a spectator position.”

Tropical Storm Khanun earlier in August passed through North Korea, a country prone to flooding due to lack of infrastructure and deforestation.

North Korean state media reported that the damaged pavement and improper drainage system flooded more than 560 hectares of land, including primary rice fields. Kim issued orders to “severely punish those responsible,” according to the KCNA news agency.

While visiting the flooded farmland in the eastern province of Anbion, Kim actually reprimanded the local authorities on August 14. Last week, he praised the military for helping to save crops in Gangwon Province. Kim said at the time, according to the KCNA news agency, that the prime minister had “left the reconstruction work almost entirely to the army.”

“It seems that a major shake-up in the North Korean government is inevitable,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute.

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The United Nations Security Council last week accused Pyongyang of spending heavily on its nuclear weapons program because its population lacks basic necessities.

The country was periodically hit by famines in the 1990s, with estimates ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of victims.

According to the Seoul Intelligence Agency, the North Korean economy is in a “vicious circle” with negative growth between 2020 and 2022 and a 12% drop in gross domestic product in 2022 compared to 2016.

Ahn Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who heads the International Institute for North Korea Studies, said KCNA reports show that food problems have worsened in the country.

“We have to find a scapegoat for the anger of the hungry people,” he told AFP, believing the prime minister would soon be sacked or even punished.

North Korea informed Japan on Tuesday of its plan to launch a satellite soon, which was immediately condemned by Tokyo and Seoul.