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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaking in Pyongyang in March 2020. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

At a party meeting Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un compared the ills the country currently faces to the severe famines it suffered in the 1990s, according to AP.

Why it matters: Groups monitoring North Korea have not seen signs of mass starvation or a growing humanitarian disaster, but the comparison may underscore how Kim views the country's current economic difficulties.

  • The same groups have said that China, North Korea's biggest trading partner and aid benefactor, won't allow a famine to occur in the country because it fears refugees crossing over the Chinese-North Korean border.

What they're saying: "There are many obstacles and difficulties ahead of us, and so our struggle for carrying out the decisions of the Eighth Party Congress would not be all plain sailing," Kim told party members on Thursday, according to AP, citing the Korean Central News Agency.

  • "I made up my mind to ask the WPK (Workers' Party of Korea) organizations at all levels, including its Central Committee and the cell secretaries of the entire party, to wage another more difficult 'arduous march' in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even a little," Kim added.

Of note: "Arduous march" is used in North Korea to describe the famine it suffered in the 1990s and early 2000s, during which an estimated 1.5 million to 3 million people died, according to the New York Times.

Go deeper

CDC says fully vaccinated people don't have to wear masks indoors

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Erin Clark-Pool/Getty Images

The CDC announced in new guidance Thursday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, regardless of crowd size.

What they're saying: "If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky will say at a White House press briefing.

Colonial Pipeline reportedly paid hackers nearly $5 million in ransom

Photo: Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images

Colonial Pipeline paid hackers linked to the DarkSide cybercrime group nearly $5 million in cryptocurrency after last week's ransomware attack, Bloomberg first reported and the New York Times confirmed.

Why it matters: The breach of the largest refined fuels pipeline in the U.S. triggered new concerns about the vulnerability of the country's increasingly digitized energy systems.

Biden warns gas stations not to price gouge: "That's not who we are"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday warned gas companies to not price gouge amid major shortages following the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack.

The big picture: Biden added that the FBI does not believe the Russian government is behind the attack, but they do know that those responsible "are living in Russia."