SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea will hold its much-anticipated Workers' Party convention — the secretive nation's biggest political meeting in 30 years — next week, state media said today.
The gathering in Pyongyang is being watched closely for signs that aging North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has anointed a son to succeed him and will formally reveal the plan by appointing his heir to top party posts.
Workers' Party delegates will meet Sept. 28 to elect new party leaders, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch from Pyongyang. The report did not explain why the meeting, initially set for "early September," had been postponed.
Delegates across the country were appointed "against the background of a high-pitched drive for effecting a new great revolutionary surge now under way on all fronts for building a thriving nation with the historic conference," KCNA said.
The conference is the first major Workers' Party gathering since the landmark 1980 congress where a young Kim Jong Il, then 31, made his political debut, an appearance seen as confirmation that he would eventually succeed his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung.
Kim Jong Il took over in 1994 when his father died of heart failure in what was communism's first hereditary transfer of power.
Now 68 and reportedly in poor health two years after suffering a stroke, Kim is believed to be setting in motion a plan to tap a son to take the Kim dynasty into a third generation.
Little is known about the son widely believed to be his father's favorite. Kim Jong Un, said to be in his late 20s, has never been mentioned in state media, and there are no reliable photos of him as an adult.
South Korean intelligence officers believe Pyongyang has launched a propaganda campaign promoting the son, including songs and poems praising the junior Kim. North Korean soldiers and workers reportedly pledged allegiance to the son on his birthday in January.
North Korea's state propaganda machine has been churning out commentaries calling for loyalty to the Kim family, an apparent effort to set to the stage for a smooth power transition.