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Kim Jong Un calls for party discipline, warns of 'stern' penalties

Kim Jong Un calls for party discipline, warns of 'stern' penalties
Kim Jong Un called on officials to root out corruption and "non-revolutionary activity" in a drive to strengthen the "monolithic leadership" of the country's ruling party, state media reported Monday. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, June 13 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered officials to weed out corruption and abuses of power, state media reported Monday, calling for party discipline as the country battles a COVID-19 outbreak and economic woes.

At a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea held Sunday, Kim and top officials discussed the need for "firmly preserving discipline" while fighting "unsound and non-revolutionary acts, including the abuse of power and bureaucratism," Korean Central News Agency reported.

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Kim pressed for boosting the ruling party's "monolithic leadership" and demanded a "stern penalty system" to be imposed against officials who violate the rules.

The remarks may signal an effort from Kim to consolidate political power and round up public support amid a COVID-19 outbreak that is shaking a precarious economy, according to some observers.

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"The meeting appears to be intended to first strengthen control over the party," South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Cho Joong-hoon told reporters, according to news agency Yonhap.

The North Korean leader has blamed health officials for mishandling the country's COVID-19 response and in recent years has publicly railed against issues such as economic mismanagement and "anti-socialist activity."

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While the country faces domestic struggles, the regime has focused a great deal of resources on ramping up its illicit weapons program.

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On Sunday, North Korea launched several rounds of artillery into the sea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff reported, Pyongyang's latest provocation among a flurry of weapons tests this year.

At the end of a three-day political conference last week, Kim gave a speech defending North Korea's "right to self-defense" and said the "current security environment of the country is very serious."

"This urgently calls upon the DPRK to attain the goal of bolstering the national defense capability as soon as possible," Kim said.

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The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have warned for several weeks that Pyongyang is poised to conduct a nuclear weapon test at any time.

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