(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with reference to socialism, other details)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonap) -- North Korea's new constitution describes its leader Kim Jong-il as the country's "supreme leader" and also articulates his role and authority, an apparent bid to shore up his power amid reports of poor health and rumors of a power transfer to his son.
Article 100 of the constitution, revised in April and obtained by Yonhap News Agency on Monday, says, "The chairman of the National Defense Commission (NDC) is the supreme leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)." Kim currently serves as the head of the commission.
Kim is arguably the most powerful figure in the reclusive communist nation, but it is the first time the North's constitution has stipulated it.
In articles that were not included in the earlier version adopted in 1998, the revised constitution also says the chairman of the NDC "oversees the entire national business, appoints and dismisses major figures in the military sector, and also ratifies or abolishes important treaties with foreign nations."
The constitution also places more weight on Kim's "songun (military-first)" policy and his support for socialism replacing the communism advocated by his late father Kim Il-sung, who founded the regime.
Article 3 stipulates that "The DPRK is guided in its activities by the songun ideology and the Juche (self-reliance) idea, a world outlook centered on people and a revolutionary ideology for achieving the independence of the masses of people." There was no reference to the songun idea in the previous version.
The 1998 constitution said "Socialism and Communism are built by the creative labor of the working masses. In the DPRK, labor is an independent and creative work of the working masses, who have been freed from exploitation and suppression."
But the new constitution dropped the use of the term Communism.
South Korean officials said they were still analyzing the change in the North's constitution, while a North Korean official said that it is based on Kim Jong-il's will to bolster socialism in his nation.
Kim said recently that he will "work on socialism in earnest," while characterizing communism as "hard to fulfill," the unidentified official was quoted as telling South Korean pool reporters covering reunions of separated families at the North's Mount Kumgang resort. The pool report did not identify the official who was described as being involved in the reunion events.
When asked to elaborate, the North Korean official explained, "Communism is meant to have a one-class society which does not distinguish the class that exploits from the one that is exploited. But it is hard for the system to exist as long as American imperialism persists."
North Korea watchers said its leader Kim Jong-il seems to have sought an image of greater authority as a practical leader through the amendment to the constitution, as western media report that Kim, believed to be suffering from poor health, is preparing to hand over the throne to his third and youngest son Jong-un.
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