Assembly will illustrate shuffle

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Assembly will illustrate shuffle

North Korea yesterday held the first meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament under Kim Jong-un, and its new membership will eventually give a glimpse of the reshuffling of power since the bloody purge of the leader’s powerful uncle Jang Song-thaek.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported yesterday that a total of 687 members of the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly attended the first session of the parliament held in Mansudae Assembly Hall to discuss major state issues.

The state media reported that Kim Jong-un was again elected the first chairman of the National Defense Commission, a powerful decision-making body in the Communist regime.

The delegates paid the leader their “utmost honors and the warmest congratulations,” the state media said, shouting out, “Hurray!”

At the 12th Assembly’s fifth session in 2012, Kim was named head of the body, according to the KCNA.

As of press time, the state media did not report details of the Assembly’s agenda.

The 12th Assembly’s first session in April 2009 decided the appointments of high-ranking officials in the party, cabinet and parliament, as well as the annual state budget.

Seoul officials say the rubber-stamp parliament ostensibly decides state affairs, but they are actually predetermined by the ruling Workers’ Party of the Communist state. Members of the Assembly hold multiple posts in the party or the military.

A day before the Assembly, the Political Bureau, the regime’s ruling party, had a meeting led by Kim Jong-un, the KCNA reported yesterday.

The bureau members discussed “a plan for forming the nation’s guidance organizations” to be raised to the Assembly’s meeting, the KCNA said. They also discussed “several matters regarding organization and tightening up of the [functions] of the organizations to step up the roles of the ruling party,” the KCNA said, without giving details.

A shake up of the power elite is expected by South Korean analysts, including the possible retirement of Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Assembly and nominal head of state under the North Korean Constitution.

Kim, 85, who has been in the post since the rule of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, was omitted from a list of new Assembly members elected in March at predetermined elections.

Sources told the JoongAng Ilbo that Pak Pong-ju, the North Korean cabinet premier, would be dismissed to take responsibility for the moribund economy.

Since the deadly purge of Kim Jong-un’s uncle last December, analysts in Seoul assumed that a reshuffle would be inevitable so the leader could consolidate his authority.

They suspect the Administrative Department of the ruling party, of which Jang was director, will be disbanded or replaced.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]


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