The North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un shocked the world on Wednesday when he made a rare admission of his country’s failings, lamenting the “suffering” in his nation.

“We ought to feel deeply responsible for not knowing that people were suffering in such an unfit environment,” Kim said while visiting a mining district in South Hamgyong that had been ravaged by a typhoon, according to Nikkei Asia. He went on to talk about how unfortunate it is that homes on the mountainside “are the same as they were half a century ago.”

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Kim explained that his “conscience wouldn’t allow it” if only the damaged homes would be rebuilt, adding that an entirely new city will be built in their place. This trip to Hamgyong was the latest stop on Kim’s our of the areas that were hit hardest by the typhoon. He recently announced a “grandiose plan” to rebuild at least 25,000 homes in the next five years.

On Thursday, the state newspaper Rodong Sinmun featured a photo of Kim smiling as he stood in front of lines of newly built homes in Sinpho City and Hongwon County. The homes were built by members of the Worker’s Party and the military.

“He said that they built the houses flawlessly as well as professional builders, noting with great satisfaction that those houses are a crystal of the loyalty of Party members,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

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This came days after Kim became emotional as he thanked the “great people” of North Korea for “zero” cases of coronavirus, a claim that experts around the world have said is dubious at best.

“I wish good health to all the people around the world who are fighting the ills of the evil virus,” Kim said while speaking at a military parade last weekend.

David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was not buying Kim’s tears, however.

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“I wouldn’t be duped by Kim’s emotions,” Maxwell said. “The bottom line is that this parade was to demonstrate military capabilities and to lay the groundwork for future blackmail diplomacy against South Korea and the US for concessions after the November elections.”

This piece originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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