September 30, 2010 11:45
The extraordinary congress of the North Korean Workers Party which convened Tuesday was apparently held at a smaller venue than previously expected. The Mansudae Assembly Hall, where it took place, seats 1,000, whereas previous guesses had put it at the 6,000-seater April 25 Cultural Hall or the People's Cultural Palace, which has 2,000 seats.
That suggests only 500 to 700 delegates attended the congress since a half of the seats at a party congress are normally filled with audience members. In comparison, some 1, 323 delegates attended the second party congress in October 1966.
A high-ranking North Korean defector who saw photos of the latest party congress said it is clear that the event was considerably scaled down, in sharp contrast to the past event that had been held in a festive mood involving some 6,000 people.
A senior source in North Korea also put the number of delegates at about 500, saying even some very senior officials had not been selected as delegates.
The North seems to have downscaled the event due to anxiety over the leadership succession and a volatile mood in the country including signs of public unrest as food rations in Pyongyang were suspended, the source added.
Many people who were unable to fit into the main conference hall reportedly watched the congress on video screens installed at the April 25 Cultural Hall and the People's Cultural Palace.
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