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(LEAD) N.K. leader warns against accepting outside flood aid due to virus risk

All News 09:54 August 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info throughout, photos; CORRECTS spelling of new premier's name)
By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the country suffered serious damage from recent heavy downpours, but it should not accept any outside assistance due to the coronavirus risk, state media reported Friday.

Kim made the remark while presiding over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Thursday to discuss measures to recover from the flood, stressing the importance of not letting up on COVID-19 prevention efforts, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

"The worsening coronavirus situation around the globe calls for tighter border closures and stricter virus prevention measures, and not allowing any outside assistance whatsoever regarding the flood damage," Kim said during the meeting, according to the KCNA.

Kim stressed the need to restore the flood-hit areas according to residents' needs and in a way that can avoid damage from any flood or natural disaster in the future, saying that he "cannot let the flood victims face the 75th anniversary of the Worker's Party out on the streets."

A total of 39,296 hectares of rice field were damaged by the flood, while 16,680 homes and some 630 public buildings were flooded or destroyed across the country, the KCNA said. Many roads, bridges and railways were also damaged, it said.

During the meeting, the North also decided to lift the lockdown on Kaesong imposed for three weeks from July 24 after a North Korean defector allegedly returned home to the border city from the South with coronavirus symptoms.

Also dealt with during the meeting were personnel affairs, including the appointment of Workers' Party Vice Chairman Kim Tok-hun as the country's new premier to replace Kim Jae-ryong and the election of Ri Byong-chol, who has overseen the North's nuclear and missile development, as a new politburo member, according to the KCNA.

In this photo, released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Aug. 14, 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a politburo meeting of the Workers' Party to discuss measures to recover from the flood. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution)(Yonhap)
In this photo, captured from the Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station on Aug. 7, 2020, many houses are damaged and flooded at a flood-ravaged village in Unpha, North Hwanghae Province, which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited. The broadcaster stopped short of saying when he made the visit, but Kim is believed to have visited the village the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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