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N.K. opens first youth congress in 23 years

All Headlines 11:21 August 26, 2016

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Friday opened the congress of a youth association for the first time in 23 years as the country's leader Kim Jong-un is seeking to solicit support from young people to cement his power.

The Central Committee of the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League held the ninth congress in Pyongyang, the North's state media said, without elaborating.

It marked the country's first congress by the youth league since February 1993. The congress was never held under the regime of the current leader's late father Kim Jong-il.

The youth league was created by the country's late founder Kim Il-sung in 1946. It is North Korea's largest youth association, governed by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, commanding the membership of some 5 million young people. The league also plays a key role in North Korean society because everyone aged from 14 to 30 is required to join.

The North's state media said on Aug. 12 that the congress would demonstrate the "steadfast" faith and will of young people to showcase the might of the youth's power.

Rodong Sinmun, the ruling party's main organ, said in its commentary on Friday that the country's young people should stand in the vanguard and show allegiance to the country's leader Kim and to build up the socialist country.

The North's leader Kim Jong-un has highlighted the role of young people in an apparent move to mobilize them to solidify his power base, experts said.

The congress came amid high tensions on the divided peninsula as North Korea fired off a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) toward Japan on Wednesday.

The missile flew some 500 kilometers, the longest flight by such a missile, raising concerns about technical advances in North Korea's missile program.

Seoul's unification ministry said that North Korea seems to be aiming to strengthen the leader's unfettered rule by holding events such as the youth congress.

"North Korea is expected to continue to hold events of socialist associations following the youth congress," Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, said at a regular press briefing.

He said that the latest move appears to highlight the meaning of the Kim Jong-un era and to help consolidate his already firm rule.

In May, North Korea held its first party congress in 36 years, a venue that reaffirmed Kim's hold on power. In early August, the country held a military gathering for exemplary servicemen in a bid to strengthen the military's morale and boost combat readiness.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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