Kim Jong Un likely to skip New Year’s speech, report says

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Dec. 28 (UPI) — Kim Jong Un could forgo a New Year Address after a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced military activity.

Kim, who has made relatively few public appearances in 2020, is expected to make a speech at Pyongyang’s Eighth Party Congress in January. A New Year Address could be redundant, or could focus less on policy, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Monday.

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In December 2019, Kim delivered a New Year’s Eve speech warning his country could unveil a “new strategic weapon,” but the pandemic this year has forced the North to focus on anti-epidemic measures. Recovery from floods and natural disaster also occupied the regime.

Kim has made televised speeches in the past, but according to Yonhap, the North Korean leader could opt to deliver his message through state media and newspapers, or make his planned statements at the Congress. A New Year’s speech is less likely for 2021, the report said.

The Party Congress, last held in 2016, is where Kim is expected to reveal a national five-year plan, address relations with the United States and South Korea, and outline policies for economic development.

The timing of the event means much of Kim’s speech at the Congress could overlap with a potential New Year Address, said Kim Yong-hyun, a South Korean analyst at Dongguk University.

Kim has only skipped delivering a televised New Year Address once, in 2012, immediately after the death of father Kim Jong Il in December 2011.

The North Korean leader appeared in public 53 times in 2020, the lowest on record, according to new South Korean research.

Voice of America’s Korean service reported Monday that Kim has stayed out of the limelight amid the pandemic, citing new data from the Sejong Institute.

Kim’s military-related activities were down this year, but still higher than in 2018, when he met with U.S. President Donald Trump at a historic summit in Singapore.