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N. Korea set for Supreme People's Assembly session following party congress

North Korea 10:36 January 17, 2021

SEOUL, Jan. 17 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is to kick off a parliamentary session in Pyongyang on Sunday in an apparent legislative step to follow up on the country's ruling party congress that recently ended.

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Choe Ryong-hae, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), and parliamentary representatives offered flowers at the statues of former North Korean leaders at Pyongyang's Mansudae hill on Saturday, ahead of the fourth session of the 14th SPA.

The 687 parliamentary representatives have been in Pyongyang to attend the recent eighth congress of the ruling Workers' Party, and they are likely to gather again for the latest parliamentary session, scheduled at the capital.

The SPA is the highest organ of power under the constitution, but it rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling party. It usually holds a plenary session in March or April to deal mainly with budget and cabinet reshuffles.

This image, captured from North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Jan. 17, 2021, shows Choe Ryong-hae, the president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, and parliamentary representatives walking toward statues of former North Korean leaders in Pyongyang to offer flowers. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This year's session has been scheduled to come on the heels of the party congress that just ended in an apparent bid to follow up on the latest decisions at the party event.

During the party congress, the North revised the ruling party's rules to reinstate the secretariat that was scrapped in 2016 and elected its leader Kim Jong-un as general secretary of the party.

The North also reshuffled its party members and called for a more "desperate struggle" to fulfill a new five-year development plan put forth during the congress.

Overall, the upcoming parliamentary session is likely to focus on the reshuffle of the Cabinet and the State Affairs Commission (SAC), the communist state's highest decision-making body.

Jo Yong-won, a senior party official who was often spotted accompanying the North Korean leader during his field trips last year, will likely be appointed as a member of the SAC.

At the party congress, Jo was promoted to a member of the presidium of the political bureau, a position held by only five people in the North, including leader Kim.

Jo is believed to have jumped up the political ladder to the country's No. 3 position at the recent party congress.

Whether or not the leader's younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, will be listed as a member of the SAC is also receiving global attention.

She appears to have been demoted to "vice department director" of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party from her previous position as first vice department director.

She was also not listed as a member or an alternate member of the party's politburo.

Whether First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, the only female member of the SAC, will maintain her position is another point of keen attention.

The meeting is also expected to deal with the North's defense budget for a new nuclear-powered submarine under development that it boasted of at the party congress.

The North Korean leader also vowed to strengthen the country's military and ordered the improvement of its missile strike capabilities targeting objects in the range of 15,000 kilometers, apparently intended to be capable of reaching the mainland U.S.

Earlier, the North had announced its plans to convene the SPA meeting in late January, raising speculation that it could be held after the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

Kim is not likely to attend the latest parliamentary session in person, as he is not one of the representatives of the 14t SPA, elected in 2019 for a five-year term.

North Korea is likely to officially announce the session's result late Sunday or early Monday morning, while the meeting could last up to more than one day due to this year's long list of agenda items.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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