N. Korea Readies for Biggest Show of Politics in Years

By Talmadge, Eric | Charleston Gazette Mail, May 6, 2016 | Go to article overview

N. Korea Readies for Biggest Show of Politics in Years


Talmadge, Eric, Charleston Gazette Mail


PYONGYANG, North Korea - Its capital has been duly spruced up, the masses prepped for their rallies and leader Kim Jong Un appears to be set to take center stage Friday when North Korea pulls back the curtain on what promises to be the country's biggest political show in years, if not decades: the first full congress of its ruling party since 1980. What exactly is in store is anyone's guess. North Korea has announced little more than the start date.

But one thing is for sure: the congress is shaping up to be a major opportunity for North Korea's young and still largely enigmatic leader to step out of the shadows of his father and grandfather and move more toward setting his own personal tone of leadership.

North Korea has allowed in droves of foreign media to make sure it gets a global audience for what the government clearly intends to be a showcase of national unity and stability under Kim, despite the increased criticism and tough new sanctions it is facing over its nuclear and missile programs.

To put its best face in front of the cameras, residents of the capital, Pyongyang, have been busy for months painting walls, fixing roads and rehearsing for mass rallies in mandatory demonstrations of loyalty.

"We volunteer to take part in these big events to show that we, the people, are united in support of our respected marshal, and to demonstrate our political commitment, said Ryu Jin Song, a university student taking part in a practice for congress celebrations.

On paper, the congress is the party's highest-level decision- making body, though the real decisions are made by Kim Jong Un and his inner circle. The delegates at the congress - who will probably number in the thousands - will be there more to endorse than debate.

But along with a heavy dose of North Korean-style pomp and theater, the gathering is likely to provide some insights into what Kim's priorities are and who he wants to promote. into the positions he needs to carry them out.

"The significance of the 7th Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea is that it will be a turning point in our revolution, Professor Song Dong Won of North Korea's Academy of Social Sciences told an Associated Press television crew in Pyongyang. …

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