중앙데일리

North to hold parliamentary election

Jan 08,2009
Perhaps in a sign of the improved health of its leader, North Korea says a delayed parliamentary election will be held in March.

The isolated communist country’s Korean Central News Agency issued a brief report yesterday that the Supreme People’s Assembly decided on Tuesday to hold the 12th election of representatives on March 8, 2009.

The Supreme People’s Assembly is the North’s unicameral rubber-stamp legislature.

The election is also a mere formality in the North because the candidates are hand-picked by the Workers’ Party and then approved by North leader Kim Jong-il.

The five-year terms of the 687 representatives, selected in 2003, were supposed to end last September. North Korea watchers have speculated that Kim’s health was linked to the election delay. According to intelligence sources in Seoul, Kim suffered a stroke in August.

“Signs of improvement in Kim’s health were shown recently as the North’s media has increasingly reported about Kim’s public activities,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University. “The rescheduled election shows that the regime is returning to normalcy because April is an important time under the North’s constitution for the legislature to begin its work.”

North Korea watchers said Kim’s appearance at a polling station will put an end to speculation about his health. Kim had cast ballots in the 1998 and 2003 elections, according to past North Korean media reports.

With the upcoming election, Kim’s regime will enter its third term. The newly formed legislature will, on paper, form a cabinet, devise a national budget plan and conduct foreign policy.

The North has already replaced five ministers in charge of the country’s industry, utilities and railways out of its 37 cabinet members last year, according to the Unification Ministry. Experts expect more changes in the government because Pyongyang made clear that its 2009 policy goals are focused on rebuilding the country’s economy.

While it is almost certain that the new legislature will re-elect Kim Jong-il as the country’s National Defense Commission chairman, it remains to be seen if it will touch the sensitive issue of Kim’s successor.

“When there is a rearrangement of the power elite, young leaders in the government and military will likely be promoted,” Koh said. “No matter who will be the successor, the North will try to establish a platform for a new era.”

Following former leader Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994, the Supreme People’s Assembly did not meet for four years. At that meeting, it elected the younger Kim as the National Defense Commission chairman and officially launched his regime. At the time, the legislature also amended the Constitution and undertook a dramatic cabinet shakeup.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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