(ATTN: CHANGES paras 3-5 with KCNA English story)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited a typhoon-hit mining town in the country's eastern province and lauded ongoing efforts to rebuild the area, state media reported Wednesday.
Kim visited the Komdok region of South Hamkyong Province hard-hit by typhoons in recent months and reviewed recovery efforts under way, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
"He said he could see the damage done to the area was more severe than he thought. He highly appreciated the labor feats of the service personnel who completely removed the serious aftereffects and are pushing forward with the reconstruction project," the KCNA said.
"He was greatly satisfied with the service personnel's high spirit and the effective field political work that was conducted across the reconstruction site," it added. "He highly praised service personnel for building dwellings to be of high quality and doing all parts of the construction with all sincerity."
Kim also disclosed a plan to turn the Komdok area into the country's "model mountainous city" and vowed to build around 25,000 homes in Komdok and other typhoon-afflicted areas under a five-year economic development plan to be announced in a rare party congress scheduled for January.
North Korea was buffeted by back-to-back typhoons in recent months and its eastern province was one of the country's most damaged. Komdok, in particular, is home to zinc, magnetite and other minerals.
State media earlier reported that "more than 2,000 dwelling houses and tens of public buildings were destroyed or inundated" in the area.
Last month, Kim held a meeting of the Central Military Commission of the ruling Workers' Party to discuss recovery efforts under way in the Komdok and other typhoon-affected regions. He dispatched soldiers to help with recovery work there.
In a rare public letter, he also asked about 12,000 "elite divisions" consisting of party members in Pyongyang to be sent to provide support for the recovery campaign.
Kim and his top aides have recently increased trips to review recovery efforts in areas affected by the summertime typhoons and flooding apparently in a bid to highlight Kim's image as a leader caring for his people.
Last week, Kim launched an "80-day campaign" to recover from flood damage and make as much progress as possible in the country's economic development project by year's end.