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N. Korea to hold party congress on May 6

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea is slated to hold its first political convention in 36 years on May 6, Pyongyang’s state-run media said Wednesday, during which the communist state is expected to reaffirm Kim Jong-un’s leadership.

“The politburo of the WPK’s central committee (has) decided to hold the party’s seventh congress in Pyongyang on May 6,” said the Korean Central TV Broadcasting Station, adding that new party leadership -- led by Kim -- has been selected.

The North has been selecting representatives for the congress since mid-March. In preparation for the event, the North also conducted its “70-day battle” campaign to boost production.

The last time the WPK held a congress was in October 1980, when the North’s founder, and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung was still in power. Some 3,000 delegates were selected for the 1980 event.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byung-ho said during a parliamentary meeting that the congress may last for three to four days, and added that there had been no signs of the North inviting any high-profile guests from outside the country.
Late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung (sitting) talks with his son and former leader Kim Jong-il during the 6th Workers’ Party of Korea convention held in North Korea in October 1980. (Yonhap)
Late North Korea founder Kim Il-sung (sitting) talks with his son and former leader Kim Jong-il during the 6th Workers’ Party of Korea convention held in North Korea in October 1980. (Yonhap)
He added that preparation for the congress had sparked complaints from North Korean citizens. Radio Free Asia reported last month the Pyongyang government had been pressing its people to put their money in banks to acquire funding for the congress.

During the event, Pyongyang is widely expected to announce the direction of the Kim regime along with key policies. Kim is expected to read an evaluation of the central committee’s projects, which is likely to include economic and foreign affairs as well as policies toward South Korea.

Kim’s economic reforms in the past have included the “6.28 measures” in 2012, which allowed farmers to keep excess production once they fulfill their quota.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday said the North is expected to carry out a live-fire exercise on a model of Cheong Wa Dae in time for its congress.
This satellite image shows what is presumed to be a half-sized model of Cheong Wa Dae at North Korea’s Daewon-ri training near Pyongyang. / Ministry of National Defense
This satellite image shows what is presumed to be a half-sized model of Cheong Wa Dae at North Korea’s Daewon-ri training near Pyongyang. / Ministry of National Defense
The South’s satellites have picked up an image of some 30 North Korean artillery gathered at its training facility in Daewon-ri in the outskirts of Pyongyang, along with a half-sized model of the presidential office.

“The intent of the exercise seems to be to raise support of its citizens (for the Kim regime) by spreading hostility toward South Korea, while sparking insecurity in our (South Korean) society and raising inter-Korea tensions,” a JCS official said. He added that the model was built early this month, after the Kim regime threatened to attack Cheong Wa Dae multiple times.

Experts have also predicted Kim will propose their preferred form of unification, as his grandfather did during the 1980 party congress.

Pyongyang is currently under powerful economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council since last month in reaction to its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

Although the North claimed the launch was to put its own satellite into orbit, South Korean military experts said Wednesday it was likely the launch was for their ballistic missile program based on analysis of the rocket showing no signs of devices to protect a satellite.

There has been widespread speculation that the North may hold its fifth nuclear test ahead of the congress.

The U.S. said Tuesday that if Pyongyang pushes ahead with the tests, it will consider “other options,” without elaborating on what they may be.

By Yoon Min-sik  (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)
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