North Korea's Kim blasts 'irresponsible' top officials for flood damage

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

By Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lashed out at top officials for their "irresponsible" response to flood damage, saying they had "spoiled" the national economy, state media reported on Tuesday.

Kim inspected a tideland on the west coast on Monday after seawater recently destroyed an embankment with inadequate drainage system, flooding more than 560 hectares of land, including over 270 hectares of rice paddies, news agency KCNA said.

Chastising officials for their "very irresponsible" neglect of duties, Kim singled out Kim Tok Hun, premier of the cabinet, for inspecting the destroyed site once or twice "with the attitude of an onlooker".

"He said ... in recent years the administrative and economic discipline of the Kim Tok Hun Cabinet has got out of order more seriously and, consequently, the idlers are spoiling all the state economic work with the irresponsible work manner," the KCNA said in an English-language dispatch.

Such irresponsibility and lack of discipline from officials is "mainly attributable to the feeble work attitude and wrong viewpoint of the premier of the cabinet," Kim said.

This week's visit is the latest in a series of inspections the North Korean leader has made of flood-hit farmlands amid mounting concerns over a food crisis in the reclusive country.

Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at South Korea's Kyungnam University, said Kim's harsh criticism could herald a cabinet reshuffle. It also demonstrates that the economy is not developing as planned, Lim added.

"After all, Kim appears to be furious over the national economy not improving as much as he wants," Lim said.

The North has suffered serious food shortages in recent decades, including famine in the 1990s, often as a result of natural disasters. International experts have warned that border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic worsened matters.

(Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; editing by Miral Fahmy)