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N.K. warns of another 'Arduous March' amid tougher U.N. sanctions

All Headlines 16:47 March 28, 2016

SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korea warned its people that it is facing some tough times and the country may have to endure another "Arduous March" of economic hardship, state-controlled media said Monday.

The article carried by the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), said that while the country may experience hardship, its people must not waver in their allegiance to leader Kim Jong-un. It also said that the road to revolution is long and difficult.

The paper's warning comes as the toughest sanctions ever to have been imposed by the United Nations against the North start to take a bite out of its economy.

The "Arduous March" refers to a period when North Korea suffered from severe famine and economic hardship in the mid to late 1990s, during which an estimated 3 million North Koreans are believed to have died from hunger.

The remarks mark the first time that Pyongyang brought up the phrase since the United Nations Security Council slapped new sanctions earlier this month over the North's latest nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

Analysts said that the North's reference to its previous economic hardship indicates the growing pressure it is facing. Besides the sanctions, Pyongyang currently has to counter the largest-ever annual joint military drills between Seoul and Washington.

The newspaper then called for North Koreans to show their loyalty to Kim ahead of the ruling party's congress slated for May.

"Even if we give up our lives, we should continue to show our loyalty to our leader Kim Jong-un until the end of our lives," it said, stressing the need for North Koreans to work hard in the "70-day campaign of loyalty."

The WPK plans to hold its first congress in more than three decades in May, where the North's leader may unveil new lines of policies and conduct a major reshuffle. Seoul's spy agency said that the party event is likely to be held on May 7.

"As the impact of sanctions will likely be felt considerably, the North seems to be calling on its people to prepare for difficult situations," said Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies.

He also added that North Korea is trying to politically use the current situation as an occasion to beef up solidarity for its leader.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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