March 11, 2019 12:05
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un vowed to improve the economy and living conditions in his impoverished country, the official [North] Korean Central News Agency reported Saturday.
At a Workers Party rally that brought together the lowest echelons of propaganda officials across the country, Kim expressed hope that North Koreans will become affluent enough to "eat white rice and meat soup," a common formula in such pledges from North Korean leaders.
The comments came after U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of a summit with Kim in Hanoi late last month and suggest Kim is trying to contain potential public unrest amid continuing international sanctions.
The formula "white rice and meat soup" was first used by Kim Il-sung in October of 1962, but in five decades since then no North Korean leader has managed to fulfill the pledge as the command economy proved an unmitigated disaster, culminating in the great famine of the 1990s that killed hundreds of thousands.
Cho Han-bum at the Korea Institute for National Unification said, "Kim Jong-un resorted to the old slogan to control public sentiment, which has been affected by the continued sanctions."
But Kim also harked back to the old "juche" or self-reliance doctrine, calling it "the fastest source of economic development."
A former Unification Ministry official here said, "It is a confession of the difficulty caused by a failure to get the U.S. to ease sanctions during the Hanoi summit."
But Kim also hinted at a commitment to greater openness. "Mystifying the revolutionary activities and appearance of the leader causes the truth to be hidden," he said. "True loyalty is possible only when we become enamored with the human and like-minded qualities of the leader."
Meanwhile, millions of North Koreans, including Kim, went to the polls Sunday to elect roughly 700 members to its rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly. The vote was more of an endorsement than a competitive contest since voters were presented with just one state-sanctioned candidate per seat. The elections are held every five years.
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