North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has mobilized the military to carry out relief work in areas recently hit by heavy rains, state media said on Sunday, amid concerns over an economic crisis and food shortage.

The Central Military Commission of the ruling Worker’s Party held a meeting of its chapter in the eastern province of South Hamgyong to discuss damage and recovery from the downpour, the official KCNA news agency said.

An early monsoon season arrived on the Korean peninsula last month, with torrential rains also inflicting damage in some southern regions.

North Korean state TV released footage this week, showing submerged houses and destroyed bridges and railroads in Hamgyong and saying some 1,170 homes were devastated with 5,000 people evacuated from the area. 

Kim did not attend the meeting, but party officials conveyed his message that the military should kick off a relief campaign and provide necessary supplies in the region, KCNA said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has mobilized the military to carry out relief work in areas recently hit by heavy rains, state media said on Sunday. (KCNA/Reuters)

“It was also emphasized that he called for awakening and arousing the (party) officials … into waging the recovery campaign skillfully and unyieldingly,” KCNA said.

KCNA said the military commission explored emergency measures to rebuild the disaster-stricken areas, stabilize people’s living conditions, prevent the spread of coronavirus and minimize crop injuries. 

Concerns about economy, food shortage

The meeting came amid concerns over a crisis in a reclusive economy that has already been dogged by international sanctions aimed at curbing its nuclear and weapons programs.

Kim said in June the country faced a “tense” food situation, citing the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s typhoons. Recently, South Korea’s central bank said North Korea’s economy suffered its biggest contraction in 23 years in 2020.

North Korea has not confirmed any COVID-19 cases, but closed borders, halted trade and imposed strict prevention measures, seeing the pandemic as an issue of national survival.

South Korean lawmakers said last week that North Korea needed some one million tonnes of rice, with military and emergency reserves running out.

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