North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sacked officials who pressed the public for contributions for the building of a hospital. This is the second such instance in recent times in a country where such issues are not publicized, reports say.
The construction of Pyongyang General Hospital was ordered by Kim Jong Un, who wanted it to be completed by the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party. The expected completion date is in October, and Kim has called it a "top priority" amid the coronavirus scare.
Reports say Kim fired a group of project managers during his latest visit to the site. He also rapped the construction coordination commission for failing to allocate a proper budget.
"He severely rebuked them for burdening the people by encouraging all kinds of 'assistance'," the KCNA state news agency reported, according to Reuters. KCNA released photographs of a serious-looking Kim speaking at the site with officials wearing masks.
It was his second rebuke for the managers this month. He earlier criticized them for causing delays with "inattention" and violating unspecified anti-epidemic rules.
Kim praised builders on the project for making rapid progress despite "difficult situations" but told the party to "investigate the performance of the construction coordination commission as a whole and replace all the officials responsible", KCNA reported.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the sackings suggested a setback for a prestigious project and hinted at broader difficulties facing the economy.
"It indicates potential delays and further obstacles in meeting the October deadline given difficulties in mobilizing resources due to the pandemic and sanctions," Yang said.
North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus but has taken intensive prevention measures, including a ban on gatherings, an order to wear masks and mandatory quarantines for border workers.
(With Inputs From Reuters)