North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his top deputies have pushed for a crackdown on officials who abuse their power and commit other “unsound and non-revolutionary acts”, state media has reported.
The move comes as Mr Kim seeks greater internal unity to overcome a Covid-19 outbreak and economic difficulties.
It is not clear what specific “non-revolutionary” acts were mentioned at the ruling Workers’ Party meeting on Sunday.
But some observers say possible state crackdowns on such alleged acts could be an attempt to solidify Mr Kim’s control of his people and push them into rallying behind his leadership in the face of the domestic hardships.
Mr Kim and other senior party secretaries discussed “waging a more intensive struggle against unsound and non-revolutionary acts including abuse of power and bureaucratism revealed among some party officials”, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
The North Korean leader ordered the authority of the party’s auditing commission and other local discipline supervision systems to be bolstered to promote the party’s “monolithic leadership” and “the broad political activities of the party through the strong discipline system”, KCNA said.
Mr Kim has previously occasionally called for struggles against “anti-socialist practices” at home in the past two years amid outside worries about his country’s fragile economy, which has been battered by pandemic-related border shutdowns, UN sanctions and his own mismanagement.
The North’s elevated restrictions on movement in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak could cause a further strain on the country’s economic difficulties, some experts say.
On May 12, North Korea admitted the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had infected people, and it subsequently has said about 4.5 million people – more than 17% of its 26 million people – have fallen ill with fevers, although it claimed only 72 have died.
Experts widely doubt the outbreak was North Korea’s first, and believe the statistics being disclosed in state media are manipulated to prevent political damage to Mr Kim while bolstering internal control and promoting his leadership.
During a Workers’ Party conference last week, Mr Kim claimed the pandemic situation has passed the stage of “serious crisis” and ordered officials to remedy “the shortcomings and evils in the anti-epidemic work” and take steps to build up the country’s anti-pandemic capability.
Meanwhile, North Korea test-fired what appeared to be artillery shells toward the sea on Sunday, South Korea’s military said, days after Mr Kim Jong Un called for greater defence capability to cope with outside threats.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it detected several flight trajectories believed to be North Korean artillery on Sunday morning.
It said South Korea maintains a firm military readiness in close coordination with the United States amid boosted surveillance on North Korea.
During a national security council meeting convened to discuss the launches, South Korean officials expressed concern that North Korea is upgrading weapons systems that pose a direct threat to South Korea and reaffirmed they would sternly deal with such North Korean efforts, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
The North’s artillery tests draw less outside attention than its missile launches. But its forward-deployed long-range artillery guns are a serious security threat to South Korea’s populous metropolitan region, which is only 25-30 miles from the border with North Korea.