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(3rd LD) N.K. leader presides over politburo meeting in first public appearance in 25 days

North Korea 11:16 November 16, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 10-11)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Nov. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a politburo meeting of the Workers' Party in his first public appearance in 25 days and discussed nationwide anti-coronavirus measures, state media said Monday.

During the enlarged politburo meeting held Sunday, Kim discussed "COVID-19 and the state anti-epidemic situation and clarified the tasks for the Party, military and economic fields to further tighten the emergency anti-epidemic front," according to the Korean Central News Agency.

He also stressed "the need to keep a high alert, build a tight blocking wall and further intensify the anti-epidemic work, being aware of the important responsibility for the security of the state and the well-being of the people," the KCNA added.

Kim Jong-un appears in public in 25 days, but stays mum on U.S. election results

This marked his first reported public appearance since he was reported on Oct. 22 to have visited a cemetery in the North's South Pyongyang Province for fallen Chinese soldiers that participated in the 1950-53 Korean War. State media usually report the leader's activity a day after it happens.

North Korea has claimed to be coronavirus-free but has stayed on high alert since early this year, when it closed its borders and enforced antivirus measures.

Along with antivirus measures, the meeting also discussed "non-socialist practices in educational organizations and in society."

It, in particular, sharply criticized the party committee of Pyongyang University of Medicine for committing "a serious crime," and accused other relevant organizations, including the party's Central Committee, for their "irresponsibility and extreme dereliction of duty."

The KCNA did not provide more details on what the crime was. The criticism appears aimed at tightening discipline among state organizations amid the country's prolonged fight against the global pandemic and ongoing recovery work from summertime typhoons.

"The enlarged meeting of the Political Bureau emphasized the need to awaken the Party organizations at all levels once again and wage a fierce Party-wide struggle to root out practices against the Party," the KCNA said.

South Korea's unification ministry said it has no information on what the alleged wrongdoing is.

In February, state media also reported on "practices of privileges, indulgence in bureaucracy, corruption and irregularities" among senior officials of a cadre training institution of the party.

At the time, the North disbanded the party committee of the training institution and dismissed some senior officials in a related move.

Meanwhile, attending the latest party meeting were members of the Presidium and members and alternate members of the politburo of the party's Central Committee.

Others, including provincial party committees, the minister of public security and members of the state emergency antivirus organizations joined the meeting through a videoconference system, according to the KCNA.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a politburo meeting of the Workers' Party in this photo disclosed by the Korean Central News Agency on Nov. 16, 2020. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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