Kim Jong-un appoints new premier

IANS Photo.
IANS Photo.

Seoul, August 14 (IANS): North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appointed a new premier during a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, state-media reported on Friday.

According to Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the appointment was made during the meeting on Thursday.

Workers' Party Vice Chairman Kim Tok-hun took over as the country's new premier, while replacing Kim Jae-ryong, Yonhap News Agency quoted the KCNA as saying

Meanwhile, Ri Pyong-chol, who has overseen the North's nuclear and missile development, was elected as a new politburo member, it added.

During the meeting, Pyongyang also decided to lift the lockdown on Kaesong imposed for three weeks from July 24 after a North Korean defector allegedly returned home to the border city from the South with coronavirus symptoms.

Kim said the decision "proved the situation of anti-epidemic work has been kept and controlled stably".

Due to the coronavirus risk, the leader also warned against accepting any outside assistance to help the country mitigate the serious damage from recent heavy downpours.

"Our state faces two challenges: anti-epidemic work to thoroughly cope with the world public health crisis and unexpected sudden natural disaster," KCNA quoted Kim as saying in the meeting, calling on officials to "overcome these two crises at the same time".

A total of 39,296 hectares of crops were damaged, while at least 16,680 homes and some 630 public buildings were flooded or destroyed across the country, the KCNA said.

Many roads, bridges and railways were also damaged, it said.

The KCNA pointed out that the areas most heavily hit by the flood were Unpha and Janphung counties in North Hwanghae province and other regions in Kangwon province.

Despite Kim's statement, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it will still try to provide humanitarian aid to the North, reports Yonhap News Agency.

"As we said earlier, the government maintains the stance that it will continue to push ahead with humanitarian assistance in non-political areas and aid related to natural disasters.

"We will continue to monitor North Korea's flood damage," Cho Hey-sil, the ministry's deputy spokesperson, told a regular press briefing in Seoul on Friday.

North Korea is known to be vulnerable to flooding due to poor irrigation and deforestation.

Last summer, a strong typhoon pummeled the North, wreaking havoc on its farming areas.