North Korea said yesterday its ruling party would hold a rare special conference in April, in an apparent attempt to quickly wrap up the power transfer to new North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The young and untested Kim took power when his father, longtime North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, died in December last year from a heart attack.
The son has been proclaimed the “great successor,” but has so far been formally appointed to only one of Kim Jong-il’s posts, -commander-in-chief of the 1.2 -million-member military.
The conference will “glorify the sacred revolutionary life and feats of Kim Jong-il for all ages and accomplish the juche cause, the songun revolutionary cause, rallied close around Kim Jong-un,” the official news agency said.
Juche, or “self-reliance,” is the nation’s official ideology. The songun, or “military-first,” policy prioritizes troops’ welfare over civilians.
The meeting will be held in mid-April, close to the 100th anniversary of the birth of founding North Korean leader Kim Il-sung — the original member of the dynasty that has ruled since 1948.
North Korea has selected the anniversary as the start of a new era, when the impoverished nation becomes a “powerful and prosperous” state.
North Korea last held a party conference in September 2010, its biggest political meeting in 30 years. That meeting appointed Kim Jong-un as vice chairman of the party’s central military commission in preparation for the eventual handover of power.
The April meeting is very likely to appoint Kim Jong-un to his father’s old post of party general secretary and also as chief of its military commission, said Paik Hak-soon, of South Korea’s Sejong Institute think tank.
Kim Jong-il had also headed the all-powerful National Defense Commission (NDC), a non-party body.
Paik said it was unclear whether Kim Jong-un would leave the NDC post vacant forever in memory of Kim Jong-il, in the same way Kim Jong-il reserved the position of state president for his own late father.
“But that’s not important,” he said. “What’s important is that Jong-un will be firmly in power with all the necessary top titles under his belt, probably by the end of April.”
Cheong Seong-chang, also with with the Sejong Institute, said the decision to hold an April meeting “signals that the North is determined to quickly wrap up the power transfer to [Kim] Jong-un, unlike the lengthy power succession of Kim Jong-il.”
He said the North was also likely to schedule a meeting of its legislature in early April.
Cheong said Kim Jong-il might be declared “eternal NDC chairman,” with Kim Jong-un taking over a new title at the top of the state organization.
“So [Kim] Jong-un … will likely be given the top state position in early April before being appointed as party secretary in the party conference in mid-April,” Cheong said in a commentary. “It means he will assume the top positions in the party, the state and the military, completely wrapping up the whole power transfer.”
The analyst also said some of the party old guard could step down, with relatively young officials promoted to senior posts and changes in party policies.