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NK’s Kim chairs politburo meeting in first public appearance in weeks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Sunday. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Sunday. (KCNA-Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Sunday to discuss COVID-19 measures, marking his first public appearance in 25 days, its state media said Monday.

During the meeting, Kim evaluated the country’s coronavirus situation and ordered that the emergency antivirus system be tightened in preparation for the worsening global public health crisis, the Korea Central News Agency said.

Kim stressed the “need to keep a high alert, build a tight blocking wall and further intensify the anti-epidemic work,” for the security of the state and the well-being of its citizens.

The meeting also sharply criticized a “serious crime” committed by party officials at Pyongyang University of Medicine, and other relevant government organizations, including the party’s Central Committee, for “irresponsibility and extreme dereliction of duty” that “shielded, connived and fostered” the crime.

The KCNA, however, did not specify what the crime was, but it appears to be a move to toughen discipline among the state organizations.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Monday said it has no information on what the alleged crime is.

The meeting marks Kim’s first reported public appearance since Oct. 22, when he visited the graves of fallen Chinese soldiers who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War.

The leader has been out of the public eye often this year, giving rise to speculation that he might be in poor health.

Pyongyang has also kept mum for over a week on US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory over incumbent President Donald Trump.

In the past, the North has mentioned or issued statements on US elections within a week after the results were announced. Observers say the reclusive regime appears to be taking a cautious approch as Trump -- who touts his “special friendship” with Kim -- has refused to concede. 

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