North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been given the new title, “general secretary” of the ruling Workers’ Party, led by his late father and grandfather, state media reported on Monday, in what appears to be a symbolic step aimed at strengthening his authority amid growing economic challenges.
The club’s ongoing conference, the first of its kind in five years, announced Kim’s new title during its six-day session on Sunday. A conference statement said Kim “clearly saw the historic goal of completing the country’s nuclear program,” according to a Korean Central News Agency official.
Primarily a symbolic appointment as Kim was already the party’s top leader. During the 2016 party conference, he was named “party chairman,” the equivalent of “general secretary” headed by his father Kim Jong Il and his grandfather Kim Il Sung. Prior to the 2016 conference, Kim Jong Un had led the party with the title “first secretary.”
Since gaining power over his father’s death in late 2011, Kim, 37, has steadily strengthened his power with a series of assassinations and assassinations that removed his opponents. He also took on a number of senior positions, including the chairman of the State Affairs Commission and the commander-in-chief of the North Korean army with 1.2 million military members, as well as a senior party official.
Two late North Korean leaders have retained their deceased titles – Kim Jong Il remains “permanent secretary general” and Kim Il Sung is “permanent president.”
Kim’s family has ruled North Korea with a strong human religion that has elevated important family members to a God-like status since Kim Il Sung founded the country in 1948. Their family’s legendary “Paektu” blood, named after the highest value on the Korean Peninsula, entitles members of their immediate family to rule over a poor but armed state.
Among the notable workers’ changes announced on Monday was the name of Kim Jong Un’s influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is not on the new list of officials in the Politburo of the powerful party. Having held ties with his rival South Korea, he was a member of the Politburo and some observers had predicted that he would be promoted to a full-time member of the office with the intention of his brother enforcing Kim’s family law. It was not immediately clear why the 32-year-old boy was fired from his Politburo position.
On Sunday, state media said the conference was committed to transforming the party’s “Executive Policy Council into a Secretariat.” The decision will result in party officials resigning from their current qualifications as Chair and Deputy Chairperson and resume the old qualifications as secretary or deputy secretary.
Under previous titles, there were many chairpersons and deputy chairpersons at various levels and the authorities may have thought that this did not help Kim Jong Un’s authority, Cheong Seong-Chang, a partner of Wilson Center’s Asia Program. He said Kim is believed to have restored the old title of “general secretary” because that would help his dictatorship.
Kim had at one time graduated from high school with her father and grandfather, as a senior military officer.
The summit is being held as Kim faces the most difficult period of her nine-year reign in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic and follows a series of natural disasters this past summer.
During the summit, Kim Jong Un vowed to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop sophisticated weapon systems to deal with what he called strengthening U.S. military policy. He acknowledged that the previous five-year economic plan had failed and exposed new developments aimed at building a strong and independent economy.
Kim pushed for a policy called “byungjin” to simultaneously seek economic growth and the expansion of his nuclear weapons as a barrier to the US with penalties the following year.
The South Korean military said on Monday it had received a tip-off that North Korea hosted a military parade in Pyongyang Square last night. A statement from Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was looking into whether it was a real show or a practice.
Earlier South Korea’s intelligence agency said North would host a major military parade in celebration of the summit and show the strength to fight the future administration of President-elect President Joe Biden in the United States.