Kim praised workers for their “lofty loyalty, strong will and sweat” to push ahead with the project in the face of an “unfavorable environment” and said Samjiyon would become a guideline for rural development.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has returned from a monthlong break from public view to inspect a major development project near the border with China, which he said epitomizes his country’s “iron will” to achieve prosperity in the face of international isolation and pressure, AP reports.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Kim expressed satisfaction during his visit to Samjiyon city over the progress of construction in an area he called the “sacred place of the sun.” Samjiyon is at the foot of Mount Paektu, the heart of North Korea’s foundation myth revolving around the Kim family and is described by official narratives as the spiritual center of the country’s revolution.

Building Samjiyon into a “model cultured city” was one of the main focuses of a nationwide construction campaign that North Korea had aimed to complete in time for the 75th anniversary of its ruling party’s founding in October last year. But construction was slowed amid pandemic border closures and international sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapon and missile programs.

Kim has been struggling to overcome what appears to be his toughest period as leader with the country’s self-imposed COVID-19 lockdown creating a further shock for an economy battered by sanctions and decades of mismanagement.

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