By Kang Hyun-kyung
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was re-elected as the general secretary of the North’s Communist Party at the rare Workers’ Party meeting in Pyongyang, Tuesday.
The reclusive country had twice previously held the crucial meeting, in which delegates can discuss and decide the party’s policy platform, policies and reshuffles. Tuesday’s meeting was the first of its kind since it was last held in 1966.
Delegates were invited to elect the lineup of several key posts including general secretary and major military and party posts.
North Korea watchers said there was a situational commonality in terms of the timing of the three party conferences. All of them were convened when times were tough for the communist state.
The first conference was held in March 1958. It was held shortly after several political figures were put behind bars after they challenged then leader Kim Il-sung’s leadership. There was no power struggle endangering the leadership after the event.
Delegates of the second Workers’ Party conference in 1966 agreed to more than double the North’s defense budget.
Experts speculated that the external factor ― the Vietnam War ― probably affected the North’s decision for military buildup at the time.
The third meeting was held with the North grappling with a worsening economy as its cash income dried up and international pressure in the wake of the sinking of Cheonan. The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that the party meeting took place “at a historic time when a signal turn is being effected in... the cause of building a thriving socialist nation.”
A multinational investigation team blamed the North for torpedoing the warship, which killed 46 sailors.
South Korea severed trade with the North in retaliation. The United States imposed additional financial sanctions on North Korea, targeting its illicit financial transactions.
The deadly flooding that hit the nation in early September made the situation worse. Kim’s health has been deteriorating after a stroke two years ago.