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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has mobilized the military to carry out relief work in areas recently hit by heavy rains, state media said on Sunday, amid concerns over an economic crisis and food shortage.

The ruling Worker’s Party’s Central Military Commission held a meeting of its chapter in the eastern province of South Hamgyong to discuss damage and recovery from the downpour, the official KCNA news agency said.

Kim did not attend the meeting but party officials conveyed his message that the military should kick off a relief campaign and provide necessary supplies in the region, KCNA said.

“It was also emphasized that he called for awakening and arousing the (party) officials … into waging the recovery campaign skilfully and unyieldingly,” KCNA said.

KCNA did not specify the extent of rain damage but said the military commission explored emergency measures to rebuild the disaster-stricken areas, stabilize people’s living, prevent the coronavirus and minimize crop damage.

The meeting came amid concerns over a crisis in a reclusive economy that has already been dogged by international sanctions, aimed at curbing its nuclear and weapons programs.

Kim said in June the country faced a “tense” food situation, citing the coronavirus pandemic and last year’s typhoons, and recently South Korea’s central bank said North Korea’s economy suffered its biggest contraction in 23 years in 2020.

North Korea has not confirmed any COVID-19 cases but closed borders, halted trade and imposed strict prevention measures, seeing the pandemic as an issue of national survival.

South Korean lawmakers said last week that North Korea needed some 1 million tons of rice, with military and emergency reserves running out.

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