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North Korean parliament to convene


North Korean parliament to convene

North Korea’s parliament will convene today. Photo: Associated Press

North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament—the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA)—will meet today in a rare session to discuss the regime’s budgets and other legislation.

The Assembly convenes at a time of rising economic woes for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as UN sanctions, COVID-19 measures and closed borders—which cut off much-needed trade with China—take their toll. South Korean observers estimate the North Korean economy contracted 23% in 2020.

Despite the worsening food security situation, the government is unlikely to cut the military budget—estimated to be 25% of GDP—in an effort to divert more resources to agriculture. Kim’s  announcements last year for his country to prepare for “belt tightening” and “tough times” ahead signals the likelihood of borders remaining closed. This means desperately needed trade with China will remain cut off due to fears of COVID-19 spreading to the ruling party’s leadership.

This ongoing closure risks repeating the deadly 1990s famine that killed 10% of North Korea’s population. In this context, the recent firing of missiles which can reportedly reach the US territory of Guam is potentially an attempt to trigger another confrontation with the US in a bid to obtain food aid as the price for resolution.

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