March 22, 2010 12:47
North Korea will convene the second session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang on April 9, the official Korean Central News Agency reported on Saturday.
The first session of the rubber-stamp parliament on the same date last year confirmed Kim Jong-il as the supreme leader and amended the Constitution to drastically strengthen the authority of the National Defense Commission.
The upcoming session is expected to be told how to overcome the disastrous currency reform and approve various economic policies. Delegates may also confirm Kim's son and heir apparent Kim Jong-un in some nominal senior post to pave the way for the succession.
◆ Will Kim Jong-un Appear?
The succession has been a creeping internal process so far, with speculation that Kim junior has been involved in making important policies while working in some capacity at the Defense Commission.
The Workers' Party's Organization and Guidance Department is said to have recruited new senior officials at Kim Jong-un's say-so. But since the botched currency reform last year, the regime appears impatient about the succession, Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said.
"If its efforts so far have been tentative, but now they're getting more systematic," he said. "So it’s possible that the SPA will appoint Kim to a junior post in the Defense Commission."
Chung Young-tae, the director of the Korea Institute for National Unification's Center for North Korean Studies, said, "If Kim junior makes a formal appearance, it will be because he has become a member of the Defense Commission." He predicted that any successful attempts to manage the fallout of the currency reform will then be touted as the achievement of Kim junior.
But Prof. Yang Moo-jin of Kyungnam University suggested the North will continue to handle the succession discreetly. "If the North brings the succession issue into the limelight in the current circumstances, it will only aggravate confusion, persuading people that Kim senior's health is really bad. I don't think Kim Jong-il will appoint his son to the Defense Commission."
◆ Economic Issues to Top Agenda
Experts speculate that the main agenda will be economic issues. It is likely that the North will try to appease public sentiment after the botched currency reform sent food prices skyrocketing. The obvious way to do this is to reshuffle officials responsible for economic matters.
The SPA is also expected to approve laws and regulations to attract foreign investment at a time when the country is groaning under international sanctions. As part of these efforts, the North has established an international investment agency, drawn up a plan to establish a state development bank and opened the Rajin-Sonbong Economic Special Zone to the outside again.
One interesting question is whether Pak Nam-gi, the ousted director of the Workers' Party's Planning and Finance Department, will attend, quelling rumors that he was executed by firing squad to take the fall for the currency debacle.
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