North Korea’s Kim seeks ‘industry revolution’ in rural areas amid widening inequality

By Thomson Reuters Feb 28, 2024 | 6:45 PM

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for an “industry revolution” in rural regions by building factories nationwide, state media KCNA said on Thursday, amid chronic food shortages and widening economic inequality.

Attending the groundbreaking ceremony for a plant in Songchon County, east of the capital Pyongyang, Kim pledged to push ahead with his “Regional Development 20×10 Policy”, under which the country seeks to open modernised factories in at least 20 remote counties every year for the next 10 years.

The policy was unveiled as Kim’s key economic initiative at a meeting last month of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s rubber-stamp parliament.

“Establishing regional industry factories equipped with modern equipment and production lines in every city and county of the country within the next 10 years is truly a great revolution with enormous epochal significance,” Kim told the ceremony, according to KCNA.

Kim handed over regimental colours at the ceremony to a military unit that has recently been created to carry out the initiative, saying that they would “create an era of great change for radically developing regions”.

Kim has been pushing for modernising the farming sector and rural communities as North Korea’s economy heavily relies on agriculture but has long grappled with food shortages amid sanctions over its weapons programmes and seasonal impacts from natural disasters.

North Korean defectors have reported deepening inequality between largely elite residents of Pyongyang and other major cities, and the farming population in rural areas.

South Korea’s unification ministry said last month that the economic gap between them appears to have further widened in terms of everything from food rations and housing to education and access to healthcare.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry)