At Congress, Jong-un plans to clean house

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At Congress, Jong-un plans to clean house

If he cannot step out his father’s shadow, Kim Jong-un may instead be preparing to erase it entirely.

North Korea’s 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, the body’s first meeting in 36 years, is scheduled to convene in May, when authorities will make changes to the policies of the Party and chart the nation’s future. It will be the first congress for the 33-year-old leader, who succeeded the late Kim in December 2011.

“The theme of this congress will be generational transition,” said a South Korean government source who asked not to be named. “Kim Jong-il didn’t do this sooner due to poor economics and his own lack of confidence.”

According to a report last Friday by Asia Press, the Japan-based company that publishes the magazine “Rimjingang: News from Inside North Korea,” the selection process for participants of the congress ended on March 24, excluding Party members over 60.

To attend the congress, a government source said, Party members must face excruciating competition. For the 6th congress, 3,200 members were selected out of 3.2 million candidates.

“Throughout this congress, Kim Jong-un will try to erase the vestiges of his father by replacing working-level officials with young people,” said Lee Su-seok, chief researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, affiliate of the National Intelligence Service. “It seems Kim, born in 1984, will stress the importance of young party members in a bid to foster the growth of loyalists supporting him.”

Against speculation that he would struggle to grasp control of the country after his father suddenly died in 2011, Kim has consolidated power by executing a handful of senior officials, shutting down the border between the North and China and developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles in defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

North Korea has also stepped up its bellicose rhetoric over the last weeks, threatening Seoul and Washington over their recent joint military drills, which are the largest ever. In response to these drills, North Korea has threatened the South and the United States with the use of solid-fuel rocket technology, re-entry vehicles and miniaturized nuclear warheads.

This has been seen more as a display of strength to North Koreans, ahead of the 7th Congress, than a genuine threat to foreign powers.

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