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N. Korea acknowledges economic shortcomings: Analysis Updated: 2020-08-24 15:11:23 KST

In the last few weeks, we've heard unusual things from and about North Korea.
One, with unusual candor, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un acknowledged his plans to improve the state's dismal economy aren't succeeding as his ruling party scheduled a rare congress in January to set development goals for the next five years.
Two, Seoul's intel agency told a closed-door briefing to South Korean lawmakers that the stress of managing state affairs had caused Kim to recently delegate some of his powers to a select group of senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong who is now chiefly involved in shaping policies toward Seoul and Washington.
Two extremely unusual developments regarding North Korea; it's the topic of our News In Depth with Dr. Go Myong-hyun, Research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

At the latest Central Committee plenum last week, Leader Kim Jong-un admitted that his five-year economic development plan failed to achieve its intended goals due to "severe" and "unexpected" challenges, and that he will unveil a new development scheme in a rare party congress come January.
First, the "severe" and "unexpected" challenges he's referring to is the crippling global sanctions on his regime, COVID-19, and damages caused by recent heavy rainfalls.
But how do you interpret his admission of a plan failure? It's not very communist leader-like?

Kim Jong-un has already convened many more high-level party meetings than his father Kim Jong-il did in his 17-year rule.
And with Kim presiding over last week's meeting, it marked the fifth of such party meetings in one month.
So can you help us understand what his intentions may be behind these moves? What's being discussed in some of these closed-door meetings?

The South Korean National Intelligence Service has assessed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has delegated partial authority to a select group of senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo-jong.
Delegation of authority is also unheard of from the regime up North.
Can we take this report face value?

On top of these numerous meetings, Kim Jong-un has reportedly delegated authority to his sister Kim Yo-jong.
But her absence was noticed in two of these important meetings - last week's Central Committee meeting as well as the key Political Bureau meeting on August 13.
The message is clear that a major shift, or change or sorts, is coming.
But what can we make of things for Kim Yo-jong? Why was she absent from these key meetings?

Now, what kind of new development scheme can we expect North Korea to unveil in January - this is taking into consideration that we don't know where the global coronavirus pandemic will be then, as well as the outcome of the U.S. presidential election?

As much of what happens in North Korea is based on past behaviors and speculation, is there any speculation that Kim Yo-jong is facing consequences for her high-profile campaign against South Korea in June which climaxed when North Korea blew up the inter-Korean joint liaison office on June 16.

North Korea has shown signs of completely sealing off its borders. This would make it even more difficult for South Korea to send COVID-19 supplies, like test kits, to the North.
If North Korea does move to seal off its borders, what does it say for their fight against COVID-19, and further, the inter-Korean relationship?

Last week, amidst U.S. President Trump's campaign trail, he boasted his good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying that if it were not for him, the United States would be at war with the North right now.
Looking back on President Trump's record with North Korea during his term in office, was Trump the best choice for relationships with North Korea?
With the 2020 US presidential elections just 72 days away now, how do you see the next U.S. president affecting the relationship?

Dr. Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, many thanks for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.
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