(ATTN: REMOVES reference that Kim mentioned Arduous March for first time following unification ministry's correction)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called on the ruling Workers' Party to wage a tougher "Arduous March" to relieve its people of economic woes as he concluded a conference of the party's grassroots leaders, state media said Friday.
Kim warned the cell secretaries and members of the party to brace themselves for the many "obstacles and difficulties" that lie ahead, pointing to the harsh period of the Arduous March in the 1990s, when the country suffered from extreme poverty and massive starvation.
"I made up my mind to ask the WPK organizations at all levels, including its Central Committee, and the cell secretaries of the entire party to wage another more difficult 'Arduous March' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty," Kim was quoted as saying in the official Korean Central News Agency.
"Our Party never expects that there will be any fortuitous opportunity for us in paving the road for our people and in realizing their great aim and ideals to build socialism and communism. There is nothing we could depend on or look to," he said.
He then laid out 10 major tasks for the party cells, urging the cell secretaries to patiently educate and train their members into "fighters boundlessly faithful" to the party.
"Just as mothers always concern themselves with the life and growth of their children and guide them along the right path, party cell secretaries should patiently educate and lead party members with warm affection and devotion," he said.
He also highlighted the importance of ideological education for the youth and urged the cell secretaries to help root out anti-socialist and non-socialist practices.
Kim's call for belt-tightening, including his mention of the term "Arduous March," appears to be aimed at intensifying discipline among party officials as the North suffers from economic challenges amid prolonged sanctions.
"He appears to have mentioned it to stress and encourage efforts to achieve the tasks put forward ... at the eighth party congress and the plenary Central Committee meeting," Cha Deok-cheol, deputy spokesperson at South Korea's unification ministry, said during a regular press briefing.
Talk of 'normalizing' GSOMIA raises hope, skepticism around Seoul-Tokyo ties
S. Korea, U.S., Japan close ranks amid growing N.K. threats
N. Korea says month-old virus crisis under control, but skepticism lingers
Yoon, Biden agree to broaden, deepen alliance amid N.K. threats, China's assertiveness
Biden's trip highlights commitment to stronger alliance, hope for S. Korea's pivotal role in security: experts