April 12, 2010 08:46
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il failed to show at the second session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang last Friday. It was the fifth time he has been absent from an SPA session since he took the top power in 1998.
A South Korean security official said it seems rumors that Kim Jong-il was away in China for a visit are not true. "He has been absent several times in the past from SPA sessions that dealt mainly with budget issues," he added.
Reporting the opening of the SPA, the North's official KCNA news agency announced a list of participants in the order of Kim Yong-nam, the president of the Presidium of the SPA; premier Kim Yong-il; and Kim Yong-chun, the minister of the People's Armed Forces. When it reported the SPA opening in April last year, Kim Jong-il was top of the list.
"Kim Jong-il seems to find it inconvenient to show up at the SPA now that people are having difficulties since the botched currency reform," Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean he is in China or ill."
There had been speculation that Kim Jong-un, Kim's son and heir apparent, would make an appearance at the current SPA session or that there would be a reshuffle at the top, but neither seems to have been the case, a Unification Ministry official said.
A researcher with a government think tank speculated that Kim junior did not appear because the regime is unpopular at the moment and it might have damaged his chances of succeeding his father.
Meanwhile, KCNA reported that the parliament amended the Constitution, but did not give any details. It also passed this year's budget, which is up 6.3 percent over last year's. A North Korean source said the budget this year is estimated at 5,217 million new North Korean won, which is equivalent to US$52.17 million." This year's defense spending accounts for 15.8 percent of the budget, the same ratio as last year's, according to a South Korean government official.
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