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North Korea to Hold Rare Party Convention Next Year

  • Kim Hwan Yong

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and Liu Yunshan, China's Communist Party's No. 5 leader, second right, waves during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's ruling party, in Pyongyang, Oct. 10, 2015.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, and Liu Yunshan, China's Communist Party's No. 5 leader, second right, waves during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the country's ruling party, in Pyongyang, Oct. 10, 2015.

North Korea’s ruling party will hold a rare convention that analysts say is an attempt to solidify Kim Jong Un’s rule.

The Workers’ Party will hold the first congress since 1980 next May, state media said Friday.

The party said the convention would be aimed at strengthening its role under Kim’s leadership to build a “thriving” nation, without disclosing what would be discussed at the meeting, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

In the past, the party often announced major state policies and the reshuffling of party officials and key organizations during the convention.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said his government was paying close attention to the upcoming meeting.

“I believe the party made the decision to convene the congress after a careful review and deliberation of the country’s internal situation and external relations,” said Jeong during a press briefing.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (3rd R) and wife Ri Sol Ju (4th L) enjoy an art performance given by the Chongbong Band to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this undated photo released by North Korea.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (3rd R) and wife Ri Sol Ju (4th L) enjoy an art performance given by the Chongbong Band to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in this undated photo released by North Korea.

Stage set for Kim Jong Un

Analysts in Seoul said the convention would be an important political event for Kim, who has tried to cement his control over the country since taking power in late 2011 after his father, Kim Jong Il, died suddenly.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at University of North Korea Studies, said the party would use the convention to proclaim the beginning of the Kim Jong Un era.

“Kim Jong Un has gained confidence in his grip over the party and the military over the past four years,” said Yang.

Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said Kim could pursue economic reforms while keeping nuclear weapons.

Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, expected Kim to take a conciliatory stance on external relations, refraining from provocations, in a bid to focus on revitalizing the country’s ailing economy.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.

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