North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the arrival of 2021 with a handwritten letter to the country’s citizens and a visit the tomb of his father and grandfather, state media reported, but there was no immediate indication he would give a speech as he has done in previous years.
In the letter, Kim offered thanks to the people for having trusted and supported the ruling Party even in the “difficult” times, state news agency KCNA reported on Friday.
The North Korean leader has previously apologised for failing to fulfil promises of economic improvement and for the hardships citizens have endured as a result of international sanctions and strict measures aimed at preventing a coronavirus outbreak.
“In the new year, too, I will work hard to bring earlier the new era in which the ideals and desires of our people will come true,” Kim wrote, according to KCNA.
North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of coronavirus, although officials in South Korea and the United States say that is unlikely.
Its economy has been strained by self-imposed border lockdowns and other strident measures to prevent an outbreak.
In contrast to many other countries around the world, huge crowds turned out to ring in the new year with a concert and fireworks show. Most of those who gathered in the main square of the North Korean capital Pyongyang were wearing face masks.
As the clock struck midnight, Kim, as well as other senior leaders visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the bodies of his father and grandfather – the previous rulers of North Korea – are preserved under glass.
Kim was also accompanied by delegates to the Eighth Party Congress, a rare political gathering that is due to be held early this month, KCNA reported.
Together, the leaders and the delegates “hardened their firm pledge to glorify the 8th Congress of the Party as the watershed in the development of the Party and the revolution,” KCNA said.
Kim is expected to use the congress to announce a new five-year economic plan, make leadership changes and make other political statements