SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has blasted local officials over a delayed construction project, state media reported Tuesday, his second such rebuke over the economy in recent weeks.
It's unusual for state media to carry dispatches showing Kim's criticism of officials. Some experts say Kim, eager to claim economic gains, may intend to blame underlings for problems before possibly launching new economic policies.
The latest fury, as Kim negotiates with the United States over abandoning his nuclear weapons programs, came during a visit to the power plant's construction site in the northeast. After officials briefed him about the project and its delays, he was "speechless" and "extremely enraged," the Korean Central News Agency reported.
The plan originally was ordered in the early 1980s by Kim's late grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.
"Kim pointed out that the cabinet has specified the project as a target project that should be accelerated," the KCNA report said. "He criticized the officials of the province and county for having not sent a letter to him about the situation."
Earlier this month, during visits to two textile factories, Kim also lambasted officials for poor building maintenance, failing to modernize production lines, a lack of expertise and other problems.
"Kim is probably hinting at changing his policy after confirming North Korea's economy has lots of problems during his inspection tours," said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Seoul's Dongguk University. "He has vowed his people won't tighten their belts again so he also may be passing the buck to officials after accusing them of being negligent."
Since taking power when his dictator father Kim Jong Il died in late 2011, Kim, 34, has promised to boost living standards and sought to project an image of youth and modernity while pushing hard to build up North Korea's nuclear capabilities.
Under his rule, the North's economy has gradually improved with the expansion of some capitalist elements such as outdoor markets. But it is still one of the poorest countries in the world, and tough U.N. sanctions imposed after its nuclear and missile tests last year could take a huge economic toll if they continue, foreign experts say.
After entering disarmament talks with the United States earlier this year, Kim met in June with President Donald Trump and agreed to commit to "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." But there has been no major progress in the North's disarmament.
U.S. and South Korean officials say they are ready to help North Korea revive its economy if it gives up its nuclear program.