BOSTON, Massachusetts: On Jan 1 this year, the Workers' Party of Korea published a report on its goals for the year, emphasising simultaneous economic construction and nuclear development. But with the coronavirus pandemic, a struggling economy and natural disasters, the country has faced a triple whammy. The unexpected hardships have derailed North Korea's five-year economic plan (2016–21), forcing its Chairman Kim Jong Un to acknowledge "shortcomings" and to schedule a rare Party Congress in January 2021 to cope with the ongoing economic woes. A look at North Korea's unusual behaviours over the last year might shed light on how insecure Pyongyang has felt. It is also a chance to gauge its intentions for 2021, especially around the many uncertainties in United States–North Korea relations under a Joe Biden presidency. DOUBT OVER COVID NUMBERS When North Korea reported zero COVID-19 cases and deaths, there were many doubts regarding the numbers, given the country's long border with China and poor healthcare infrastructure. Recent reports note many deaths in just a single city, with the number of people in quarantine facilities increasing. There are two reasons the country might have hidden the true scale of the outbreak. First, North Korea did not want… Read full this story
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