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Kim Jong-un reinstates sister to Politburo, calls for stricter coronavirus measures

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over Politburo meeting on Saturday. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over Politburo meeting on Saturday. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reinstated his sister as an alternate member of the Politburo, the ruling party’s top policymaking body, at its meeting Saturday, the North’s state media said Sunday.

The Worker’s Party meeting also addressed countermeasures to COVID-19, other personnel reshuffles and organizational matters, according to the Korea Central News Agency.

A joint resolution was adopted to take “more thorough state measures to protect life and safety of our people from the great worldwide epidemic disease.”

“It has become impossible to resolve the danger of the virus infection in a short time, and such environment can pose some obstacles to our struggle and progress,” it said, while lauding the country’s effort to maintain “a very stable anti-epidemic situation,” thanks to its “strict top-class emergency anti-epidemic measures.”

Raising the alert about the global spread of the coronavirus, North Korea called for consistency in taking “strict national countermeasures to thoroughly block the infiltration of virus.”

Despite the warnings, photos of the meeting published by the official paper Rodong Sinmun showed that Politburo members, including Kim, were sitting close together and were not wearing masks.

North Korea has insisted the country is virus-free, while nearly every other country has reported COVID-19 cases, with the global tally exceeding 1.78 million cases and 100,000 deaths. Health experts have cast strong doubt on the North’s claim, and have warned that if COVID-19 spreads to the reclusive country, its weak public health system may not be able to cope.

The Saturday meeting suggests that a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, the country’s rubber-stamp parliament, which was scheduled to convene Friday, was delayed for unknown reasons. The high-profile Politburo meeting usually takes place before the larger Assembly session.

The KCNA said the Politburo had approved budgetary issues and personnel changes to be presented at the upcoming third session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly, indicating that the parliamentary session hadn’t yet taken place.

The report also said Kim Yo-jong, the leader’s younger sister, had been elected as an alternate Politburo member, signaling a comeback and an official rise of ranks in the reclusive nation. Kim Yo-jong is believed to have been dismissed from the Politburo last April, after the collapse of the summit in Hanoi between her brother and US President Donald Trump.

Also during the meeting, Gen. Pak Jong-chon, chief of staff of the Korean People’s Army, was promoted to full membership in the Politburo, following his election as an alternate member last December.

Ri Son-gwon, the North’s recently appointed foreign minister, was also elected as an alternate member of the Politburo, alongside Kim Yo-jong.

By Ahn Sung-mi(sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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