North Korea said its biggest political gathering in 30 years was under way today and crucial developments were expected, hours after leader Kim Jong Il appointed his youngest son as a military general in what was seen as part of a succession plan.
State TV said in a broadcast monitored in Seoul, South Korea, that the elder Kim was reappointed as general secretary of the Workers’ Party at the delayed political gathering.
Kim had been expected to appoint his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to key positions to groom him as his heir to power.
Delegates to the convention were meeting in Pyongyang to elect the party’s top leadership, hours after state media announced that Kim Jong Un was promoted to army general.
It was state media’s first official mention of the young man many believe will succeed his father as North Korea’s next leader.
Later, state TV said Kim was reappointed as the party’s general secretary, proof of the people’s “expression of absolute support and trust” in him, a TV announcer said.
She said a “crucial” development was under way but gave no further details.
Kim Jong Il himself took over leadership in 1994 when his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, died of heart failure in what was communism’s first hereditary succession.
The question of who will take over from the authoritarian leader is important to regional security because of North Korea’s active nuclear and missile programs and concerns of chaos in the case of upheaval in the impoverished country.
Very little is known about Kim Jong Un, believed to be 28 and schooled for several years under a pseudonym in Switzerland.