Mr. Kim held his major coming-out event as leader when he held the party congress in 2016, the first such meeting in 36 years. There, he adopted his ambitious five-year economic goals. The plan was for Mr. Kim to celebrate his achievement during the party’s 75th anniversary on Oct. 10 this year with pomp and spectacle.
But things have hardly transpired as Mr. Kim had hoped.
North Korea had already been struggling under the stranglehold of United Nations sanctions. Then, last week, the North Korean leader admitted that his nation was facing more challenges, “two crises at the same time”: fighting the spread of the coronavirus and coping with extensive flood damage. But he ordered his country not to accept any international aid for fear that outside help might bring in Covid-19.
In his no-nonsense assessment during the party meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Kim said his country faced “unexpected and inevitable challenges” this year. He also critiqued the “achievements and shortcomings” of his own government, state news media reported.
When Mr. Kim took power after the death in 2011 of his father and predecessor, he vowed to ensure that his people, long suffering from multiple maladies, would “never have to tighten their belt again.” In 2016, when he adopted his economic plan, the North’s economy grew 3.9 percent, the highest since a devastating famine hit the country in the late 1990s, according to the estimates by the South’s central Bank of Korea.
The growth was largely the result of ramped-up exports of coal, iron ore, textiles and fisheries to China. But the United Nations Security Council banned such exports after the North rapidly expanded its weapons programs, testing three intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2017, as well as what it said was a hydrogen bomb.
As the sanctions tightened, the North’s economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2017, according to the Bank of Korea. It contracted by 4.1 percent the following year, with its exports to China plummeting 86 percent.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 17, 2020
Why does standing six feet away from others help?
- The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation of six feet on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet. But six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study. It’s a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it’s windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
North Korea’s economy recovered slightly last year, growing 0.4 percent, as Pyongyang invented ways of easing the pain of the sanctions, such as smuggling banned cargo across the Chinese border at night or between ships on the high seas. It also exported practically anything not banned by the sanctions: cheap watches assembled with Chinese components, artificial eyelashes, wigs, mannequins and soccer balls.