North Korea’s Kim Jong Un adds title: General secretary of ruling party

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been given a new title, “general secretary” of the ruling Workers’ Party, state media reported.

The title was formerly held by his late father and grandfather, with the move appearing to be a symbolic one aimed at bolstering his authority amid growing economic challenges.

The party’s ongoing congress, the first in kind in five years, announced Mr Kim’s new title during its sixth-day session on Sunday.

A congress statement said Mr Kim “has gloriously realised the historic mission to complete the country’s nuclear build-up plan,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

It is largely a symbolic appointment as Mr Kim already was the party’s top leader.

North Korea Party Congress
Mr Kim has been given a new title, “general secretary” of the ruling Workers’ Party (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Since inheriting power upon his father’s death in late 2011, Kim, 37, has gradually consolidated his grip on power through a series of high-profile executions and purges that removed his potential rivals.

He has also taken up a spate of top jobs that includes chairman of the State Affairs Commission and supreme commander of the North’s 1.2 million-member military, along with the top party post.

The two late North Korean leaders have kept posthumous titles — Kim Jong Il remains “eternal general secretary” and Kim Il Sung is “eternal president”.

The Kim family has ruled North Korea with a strong personality cult that elevated key family members to a god-like status since Kim Il Sung founded the country in 1948.

Their family’s mythical “Paektu” bloodline, named after the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, only gives their direct family members the rights to rule the impoverished yet nuclear-armed nation.

Among notable personnel changes announced on Monday was the name of Kim Jong Un’s influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, missing from a new list of officials at the party’s powerful Politburo.

Being in charge of relations with rival South Korea, she was an alternate member of the Politburo and some observers earlier predicted she would be promoted to a full member of the bureau in a bid by her brother to reinforce the Kim family’s rule.

It was not immediately clear why the 32-year-old was dismissed from her Politburo post.

North Korea Party Congress
The title was formerly held by Mr Kim’s late father and grandfather (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

During the congress, Kim Jong Un vowed to enlarge his nuclear arsenal and build more sophisticated weapons systems to cope with what he calls intensifying US hostile policy.

He also admitted a previous five-year economic development plan failed and disclosed a new development that focuses on building a stronger self-reliant economy.

Mr Kim has pushed the so-called “byungjin” policy of simultaneously seeking economic growth and the expansion of his nuclear weapons as a deterrent to the US.

South Korea’s military said on Monday it has obtained intelligence showing North Korea staged a military parade at a Pyongyang square the previous night. A statement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it was checking whether that was an actual parade or its rehearsal.

South Korea’s spy agency earlier said the North would hold a massive military parade in celebrations of the congress and in a show of force against the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden in the US.

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