SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un broke ground for a large greenhouse project and a development for 10,000 apartments in Pyongyang, state media reported on Thursday (Feb 16), amid worries over the country's economic and food situation.
Neighbouring South Korea said on Wednesday that a food crisis appeared to be worsening in the North, and the South's DongA Ibo newspaper reported that North Korea had cut rations to its soldiers for the first time in more than two decades.
The North's state-run KCNA news agency made no mention of specific shortages in its report on the groundbreaking ceremonies in the capital, Pyongyang, but cited an official who said the greenhouse construction would be a model for overcoming "present difficulties".
Kim's presence at that event, according to KCNA, demonstrated his "ceaseless journey of devoted service for the people to build a highly-civilized thriving country, a socialist paradise on this land full of the people's laugh and happiness".
The housing development, meanwhile, would be "another luxurious street of socialism full of the people's happiness", KCNA said in a separate report.
The ceremonies come ahead of a rare meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee scheduled for sometime in late February for the "very important and urgent task to establish the correct strategy for the development of agriculture".
The isolated country is under strict international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes and in recent years its limited border trade was virtually choked off by self-imposed lockdowns aimed at preventing COVID-19.
In recent months North Korea has reopened freight train services with China and Russia, and on Thursday, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported that trucks had also begun crossing between the northeastern Chinese city of Hunchun and North Korea's Rason.