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North Korea's Kim visits tractor factory amid food crisis

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the Kumsong Tractor Factory on Wednesday alongside his powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, amid the ongoing food crisis, state media KCNA reported on Thursday.

The visit, accompanied by senior officials, saw the leader urge the factory to play an important role in solving the food crisis which he described as an important business for the country's future.

Kim also called for goals to be set to modernize the country's agricultural machinery production process and for it to reach the "world-class" level, the report said.

North Korea has been pushing agriculture amid growing concerns over food shortages. Some analysts have said the factory may also manufacture parts for missile launch vehicles.

South Korea's unification minister, charged with handling relations with its neighbour, said earlier this year that the food situation in the North is "still bad" despite a small increase in trade with China.

The North has suffered serious food shortages in recent decades, including famine in the 1990s, often as a result of natural disasters, and international experts have warned that border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic worsened matters.

Earlier this week, Kim criticized top officials over their response to flood damage including over 270 hectares (667 acres) of rice paddies, news agency KCNA said.

Last week, KCNA also reported that Kim had inspected typhoon-hit farmlands after tropical storm Khanun swept over the Korean Peninsula.

Kim praised the military's efforts to salvage crops and said the troops were mobilised because they cannot lose a patch of farmland "to the natural rampage on the agricultural front directly related with the people's living," the report said.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Sandra Maler)