North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has berated construction managers over the building of a hospital, in comments that may indicate the country is struggling to secure necessary supplies amid US-led sanctions and a coronavirus lockdown.
During a visit to the construction site in Pyongyang, Mr Kim lamented that his ambitious project of building a new general hospital was being carried out in a “careless manner” and without a proper budget.
He also ordered all officials responsible to be replaced, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
The report said Kim accused construction managers of making a “serious digression” from the ruling party’s policy over the supply of materials and equipment by “burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of ‘assistance'”, which apparently indicated rising complaints among people who were mobilised for its construction.
The KCNA report did not say when Mr Kim visited the site and did not mention any comments by him over stalled nuclear diplomacy with the Trump administration or international sanctions over his nuclear weapons program.
In announcing the plans to build the hospital in March, Mr Kim made a rare acknowledgement that his country lacked modern medical facilities and called for urgent improvements in North Korea’s health care system.
However, the secretive nation has not directly linked the hospital project to the coronavirus pandemic, and has steadfastly maintained no one in its territory has been sickened by Covid-19, a claim many foreign experts doubt.
Experts say the pandemic has hurt the North’s economy, already battered by stringent US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Mr Kim desperately sought sanctions relief during a flurry of diplomacy with the United States in 2018 and 2019. But talks have faltered since his second summit with President Donald Trump in February 2019.