North Korea's ruler, Kim Jong-un, has admitted his economic policies have largely failed, while vowing to avoid a repeat of the "painful lessons".
He made the admissions at a rare meeting of the country's ruling party.
Kim told the congress of the Workers' party that his five-year economic plan has failed to achieve its goals "in almost all areas to a great extent," North Korean state media said on Wednesday.
“We should further promote and expand the successes and victories that we’ve achieved through our painstaking efforts but prevent us from having the painful lessons again," he said.
The congress opened with Kim facing the toughest challenges of his nine-year rule, caused by what he said were "unprecedented" crises, writes The Guardian.
The country has failed a difficult year with natural disasters as well as contenting with the knock-on effects of the Covid pandemic, alongside international sanctions imposed in response to its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
North Korea continues to claim it has not had any recorded coronavirus cases, but border closures and suspension of international flights have strained the economy.
Trade with China dropped by almost 80% in the first 11 months of 2020, according to Song Jaeguk, an analyst at the IBK Economic Research Institute in Seoul, in comparison to the same period in 2019.
Kim said there had been “shining successes achieved by our party and people”, according to the official KCNA news agency. But he added that he had “analysed the mistakes manifested in the efforts for implementing the five-year strategy for national economic development”.
He praised party workers for "ensuring stability" despite the difficulties of the pandemic.
North Korea closed it's borders with Russia and China early on in the pandemic, and quarantined thousands of people suspected of having Covid-19.
However, no one among the 4,750 delegates and 2,000 spectators at the congress were seen wearing masks or socially distancing.