North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been elected general secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party, of which he has so far served as chairman, a symbolic name change aimed at strengthening his power, analysts say.
The country, hard hit by international sanctions and more isolated than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic, is in the grip of immense economic difficulties.
The North Korean leader was elected “unanimously” secretary general of the party on Sunday, the official North Korean news agency KCNA reported.
Five years ago, at the last Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), Mr. Kim was elected party chairman.
This had been analyzed as an opportunity to consolidate the stature of the leader, who had inherited power when his father died in December 2011.
The 8th Congress, which opened on Jan.5 in Pyongyang, re-established a secretariat – abandoned in 2016 – and changed job titles accordingly.
“All the delegates expressed their full support with a round of applause,” KCNA said.
This change of title comes as Mr. Kim pledged Wednesday to strengthen the defense capabilities of the country, already a nuclear power. In a provocative statement, he also claimed that the United States is his country’s “greatest enemy”.
At the same time, this congress was an opportunity for him to take stock of the failure of his economic policy, admitting that “almost all sectors” had not achieved their objectives.
According to experts, these new titles and functions have a largely symbolic scope.
This “is another indirect way of admitting that the plans introduced in 2016 – including the new president system – didn’t really work,” commented Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector turned researcher at the World Institute for North Korean Studies, based in Seoul.
“Mr. Kim wanted to shape a new image (…) different from that of his father – by becoming a + president + – but it seems that he feels the need to emphasize his bond with his father to consolidate his leadership in these difficult times, ”he explained.
Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011, remained the party’s eternal general secretary, while his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founder of North Korea and who died in 1994, is the eternal chairman of the party. country.
High mass of the party in power, the congress is intended to reinforce the authority of the mode and to announce changes at the level of political orientations or the choice of the elites.
Military parade ?
A new political office has also been appointed, which does not include Kim Yo Jong, younger sister and adviser to Mr. Kim.
She does not appear on the lists of people appointed to the party’s central committee, of which she was until then a substitute member, which seems to be a setback for the one who had succeeded in establishing herself as one of the most powerful personalities. of the reclusive regime.
Analysts say North Korea has used this Congress to send a message of defiance to future US President Joe Biden, while being cautious after a tumultuous relationship between Mr Kim and Donald Trump, the outgoing president.
This congress would also have been an opportunity for Pyongyang to organize a military parade.
The South Korean army said it had detected signs that such a parade took place on Sunday evening. She was not, however, in a position to say whether it was “the event itself or a repetition”.
In October, a huge parade was organized to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party. A giant intercontinental ballistic missile had been unveiled.
In his New Year’s address on Monday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who played a pivotal role in the negotiating process between Mr. Kim and Mr. Trump, said that “Seoul would capitalize on the change in administration in Washington to achieve “a great turnaround” in the inter-Korean negotiations and between Washington and Pyongyang which are at an impasse “.