North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited a village flooded in recent typhoons to see recovery efforts, accompanied by his sister in her first public appearance in about two months, state media reported on Friday.
Kim praised the speed of reconstruction work in Kimhwa County in the country’s southeast during the visit with Kim Yo Jong, KCNA said. “This year has been one of unprecedented hardships,” he was quoted as saying in response to the storms that have ravaged the country in recent months.
The younger Kim, considered the de facto second in command, is believed to be in her early 30s and is the leader’s only close relative with a public role in politics. She rose to prominence in March with a series of tirades against South Korea.
Northern summer storms and floods have hit North Korea hard, destroying thousands of homes and raising concerns of a worsening of the country’s chronic food shortages.
While praising the recovery, Kim said he “felt regretful” that the new houses being built in the area were of a “monotonous” design. Kim Yo Jong was seen standing in the background and walking with her brother and the other officials.
Kim’s comments were the latest official criticism in the tightly controlled country.
In recent weeks state media said Pyongyang had discovered “faults” in its efforts to battle COVID-19, and Kim offered a rare apology for North Korea’s killing a South Korean official in waters off the west coast of the peninsula.
On Friday, the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun featured Kim’s tour, showing lines of houses with red roofs and beige and white walls.
Kim said that although speed was important, he wished “artistic harmony with the surrounding environment and diversity had been appropriately combined,” KCNA said.