North Korea’s ruling-party congress on Monday announced a new title for Kim Jong Un, party chairman, in a move that highlights how the authoritarian country’s first congress in 36 years is aimed at bolstering the young leader.
Less than a third of the more than 100 foreign journalists invited for the historic congress were permitted to attend, and even they were allowed to view the proceedings in the ornate April 25 House of Culture for only about 10 minutes. Earlier Monday, a BBC correspondent was expelled for allegedly insulting the dignity of North Korea.
As a military band in full uniform played the welcoming song used whenever North Korea’s leader enters a public place, Kim strode onto the stage, generating a long, loud standing ovation from the several thousand delegates attending.
In unison the delegates shouted, Mansae! Mansae! wishing Kim long life.
He and other senior party members took their seats, filling several rows on a stage, below portraits of Kim’s grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, and father, Kim Jong Il. The walls were decked with banners of red with the ruling party’s hammer sickle and pen logo embossed in gold.
Kim Yong Nam, the head of the North’s Parliament, stood to read a roster of top party positions — calling Kim Jong Un chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea for the first time.
Kim had already been head of the party, but with the title of first secretary.
His predecessors keep their posthumous titles. Kim Jong Il remains eternal general secretary and Kim Il Sung is still eternal president.
The congress, which began Friday, has touted Kim’s successes on the nuclear front and promised economic improvements to boost the nation’s standard of living. Mostly, however, the congress has put Kim himself front and center in the eyes of the people and the party as the country’s sole leader.
The event includes what for the North is a relatively large contingent of foreign journalists, but Monday marked the first time any of them were allowed inside the venue. Instead, officials have kept the foreign media busy with trips around Pyongyang to show them places North Korea wants them to see.
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