The North Korean authorities have ordered provincial, city and county delegates to assemble in Pyongyang by April 5th for the start of the 5th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly, which is scheduled to begin on the 13th.
The unusually long eight day lead-in time appears to suggest that the 4th Chosun Workers’ Party Delegates’ Conference is going to occur sometime between the 5th and 12th, to be followed by the SPA on the 13th in order to allow all political formalities to be completed before the regime turns its attention to celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth on the 15th.
The exact schedule is a guessing game because although the Politburo revealed official plans to hold the 4th Delegates’ Conference “in mid-April” on February 20th, a precise date has still not been officially released.
A source from Hyesan in Yangkang Province revealed news of the order to assemble in conversation with Daily NK today, adding that “Nine people will depart from Hyesan by train on April 1st as SPA delegates, including Provincial Party Chief Secretary Kim Hi Taek, the principal of Kim Jong Suk College of Education and the low-level Party secretary from Hyesan Textile Factory.”
According to the source, “There has been no order handed down about the Delegates’ Conference, but since they have told delegates to assemble early for the SPA, the word on the street is that the Delegates’ Conference will come first.”
Many of the ‘lawmakers’ in the rubberstamp SPA are also likely to be Party delegates as well, meaning that holding the two events in very quick succession is logistically beneficial.
Delegates will travel on special trains laid on to transport people and freight on the behalf of the state. In the case of delegates from Hyesan, the train will depart from the border city before stopping at Kilju in North Hamkyung Province and passing through Kim Chaek, Simpo and Hamheung before stopping at Suncheon and Pyongsung in South Pyongan Province en route to the capital. If all goes according to plan, the journey should take 22 hours, though the April 1st departure date is a clear reflection of how power limitations can affect travel in rural North Korea.
In the meantime, Chosun Central News Agency and Rodong Shinmun have both been reporting on local conferences held to ‘elect’ delegates to the 4th Delegates’ Conference, though these are not competitive elections. So far, Kim Jong Eun has been officially adopted as a delegate by the Chosun People’s Army and the Party in South Pyongan Province and the capital, Pyongyang.
If the Supreme People’s Assembly does occur after the 4th Delegates’ Conference, Kim Jong Eun will first formally take power in the Party and then in the administrative sector, presumably becoming Chosun Workers’ Party chief secretary and chairman of the Central Military Committee before then becoming head of state.
However, it is unclear how North Korea intends to proceed in the second case. Kim Il Sung became premier through the Supreme People’s Assembly in 1972, while Kim Jong Il was made chairman of the National Defense Commission the same way in April, 1993, but because the position of premier was abolished following Kim Il Sung’s death and since the country may now wish to do the same with the chairmanship of the National Defense Commission, it is unclear through which position, an existing or entirely new one, Kim Jong Eun will take formal control.