N.Korea’s Kim marks new year with letter, visit to rulers’ tomb

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pens a letter to all people on New Year’s day in this photo supplied by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 31, 2020. KCNA/via REUTERS

(Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un marked the new year with a letter to the country’s citizens and a visit the tomb of his father and grandfather, state media reported, but gave no immediate sign he would give a speech as he has in past 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, though 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.

Crowds of partiers wearing face masks rang in the new year at a concert and fireworks show in the main square in the North Korean capital Pyongyang on Thursday night, state media showed.

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 – lie preserved under glass.

Kim was also accompanied by delegates to the Eighth Party Congress, a rare political gathering due to be held some time in early January, 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.