Kim Jong-un berates officials over troubled North Korean hospital project

The KCNA report didn’t say when Kim visited the site and didn’t mention any comments by Kim 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, Kim made a rare acknowledgement that his country lacks modern medical facilities and called for urgent improvements in the country’s health care system.

However, the country hasn’t directly linked the hospital project to the coronavirus pandemic and has steadfastly maintained that 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.

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.

Experts say the Covid-19 crisis likely thwarted some of Kim’s major economic goals by forcing the country into a lockdown that shut the border with China, its major ally and economic lifeline, and potentially hampered his ability to mobilise people for labour.

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