North Korea’s ruling party is preparing to bestow a new title on leader Kim Jong Un, another clear sign that the third heir to North Korea’s dynasty of Kims is firmly in control despite his country’s deepening international isolation over one of his key ambitions, to keep developing more and better nuclear weapons.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency on Saturday said the agenda for the congress included reviewing the works of the party’s Central Committee and Central Audit Commission, revising party rules, electing Kim to the top party post and electing a new central leadership for the party.
The new title would likely elevate Kim to a level equivalent to his late father and grandfather, who held the title of general secretary of the Workers’ Party a mostly symbolic move to demonstrate the young leader is in full control and ready to begin a new era of his own.
Kim is already head of the party, but with the title of first secretary.
Kim opened the lavish congress with a brief speech on Friday that singled out North Korea’s advances in developing nuclear weapons and rockets capable of putting satellites into orbit, as examples of the country’s progress in the face of international criticism and tough sanctions that threaten to further stifle its struggling economy.
Along with being high political theater filled with pomp and ceremony the congress is being held in a lavishly decorated hall decked out with bright red banners and flags bearing the party’s hammer, sickle and pen symbol the gathering is a major milestone for the young North Korean leader, who was not yet born when the previous congress was held in 1980.
Kim called the congress a “historic” milestone in a grand struggle pitting the North against “all manner of threats and desperate challenges by the imperialists.”
He said it would “put forward the strategic line and tasks to keep ushering in a great golden age of socialist construction and the direction of advance of our revolution.”
The reference to what the North claims was a successful hydrogen bomb test in January brought a standing ovation from the more than 3,400 delegates at the congress. To put a finer point on his defiant message, outside observers believe, the North may be preparing to conduct another nuclear test soon, possibly before the congress is over.