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N. Korea's Kim reviews agenda for congress in early January

N. Korea's Kim reviews agenda for congress in early January

The 38 North website about the Hermit Kingdom said the massive crowd assembled at Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday to practice for an event around the time of the Eighth Party Congress in January.

During a Tuesday meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK) presided over by party chairman Kim Jong Un, the leadership body chose to hold its first party congress in four years.

The country is preparing this week to hold a huge congress of the ruling party amid growing crises caused by the coronavirus as well as worldwide sanctions imposed over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

The North Korean report indicates Kim Jae Ryong is in charge of planning for the Party Congress, and that he is the head of the OAD, a South Korean intelligence source said, according to Newsis.

Satellite imagery showed the propaganda phrase being spelled out in Korean by people standing in formation and holding up red placards in Kim Il-sung Square.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chairs a politburo meeting December 29, 2020.

A similar push happened before the seventh congress in 2016, which saw a new five-year economic plan announced, starting with a 200-day mass mobilisation campaign. With few options for solving the spiralling problems, Mr Kim's government may roll back some economic and political reforms allowed in the earlier years, analysts said.

'Juche is truly being tested for the first time because the pandemic has forced North Korea into self isolation, when until now, it has been able to rely on China as a life support even during the harshest of economic times, ' said Duyeon Kim, a North Korea expert at the US-based Center for a New American Security.

The closure of its border with China, its biggest trading partner and economic pipeline, has dealt a telling blow to North Korea's already-troubled economy because more than 90% of its external trade goes through China.

Kim, however, skipped such an annual address early last year, replacing his message with a speech at a party meeting held late in the previous year.

Kim chaired a politburo meeting on Tuesday to prepare for the congress, state media reported, without specifying an exact date for its start.

'North Korea's political and economic policies may become more conservative, given the prolonged difficulties and the likelihood of their continuation into 2021, ' said researcher Rachel Minyoung Lee. A Cabinet reshuffle is also on the table. It was also when Kim was officially elected to the position of chairman of the ruling Workers' Party. Despite a historic diplomatic overture by Trump, denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled.