July 9 (UPI) -- A top North Korean official visited the construction site of the new Pyongyang General Hospital ahead of an October deadline when the Korean Workers' Party is expected to mark its 75th anniversary.
Pak Pong Ju, the former premier of North Korea and vice chairman of the Central Committee of the ruling party, urged workers on the site to not become self-satisfied and step up their role and responsibilities, Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA reported.
The hospital is a project that began in the spring after leader Kim Jong Un suggested North Korea's medical facilities were inadequate to cope with an epidemic.
In April, KCNA said North Korea completed foundational work on the hospital, and that "Military builders worked in an area measuring hundreds of thousands of cubic meters...[giving] birth to an innovation by completing the excavation" ahead of schedule.
Pyongyang has claimed there are zero cases of COVID-19 in the country, but has also disclosed it has quarantined hundreds of people without providing details.
This week, according to state media, Pak urged North Korean workers to secure materials and "maximize work efficiency."
Pak also inspected other sites, including a sock factory in Pyongyang and a synthetic fiber plant.
The North Korean leader has not made a public appearance at the hospital construction site since March but has urged his countrymen to step up anti-epidemic efforts during a recent politburo meeting.
Pyongyang has disparaged Seoul for maintaining steady ties to the United States and for regular meetings of the U.S.-South Korea working group on North Korea denuclearization.
On Thursday, South Korea's presidential Blue House said Seoul and Washington agreed to "continue the peace process" following a meeting between U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun and Suh Hoon, the new head of the South Korean president's National Security Office, News 1 reported.
Suh requested Biegun to resume steps toward North Korea dialogue, according to KBS.