North’s party meet put ‘on hold’

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North’s party meet put ‘on hold’

North Korea’s long-awaited Workers’ Party convention has been put on hold, according to a humanitarian group, possibly because of recent floods.

The nonprofit organization Good Friends said yesterday that Pyongyang had decided to postpone the convention until a later date after some of the participants failed to reach Pyongyang by Tuesday. The group cited North Korean sources.

North Korea’s state media made no announcement of a delay.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has been expected any day to preside over a meeting of the Workers’ Party, the first in 44 years. The meeting was widely expected to prepare for a power transfer from the 68-year-old Kim to his youngest son, Kim Jong-un. The meeting will be the third of its kind, and North Korea observers say that previous congresses in 1956 and 1966 were important political turning points for the communist regime.

“We have heard that several regional leaders could not reach Pyongyang due to roads destroyed by floods,” Good Friends said yesterday, quoting a second group of sources. “Also, the nation is in a state of hardship after the floods and the people are suffering - it would not be a good time to announce a succession.”

Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said yesterday that the delay may be due to flooding or other reasons, but said he believes “there is an inside situation” and that the South Korean government needs to confirm the exact details.

A South Korean government official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sept. 13 that the delay was due to a deterioration in Kim Jong-il’s health.

By Christine Kim []
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