, SEOUL, Jun 26 – North Korea\’s ruling communist party will convene a meeting of party representatives in September to elect new leaders, Pyongyang\’s official media reported Saturday.
The session would be "for electing its (the party\’s) highest leading body," said an announcement carried by the North\’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
It will be only the third such meeting of the ruling Workers\’ Party of Korea (WPK) since the communist state was founded in 1948 and would likely designate leader Kim Jong-Il\’s son as his political heir, analysts said.
"The Political Bureau of the WPK Central Committee decides to convene early in September, Juche 99 (the year 2010), a conference of the WPK for electing its highest leading body," KCNA said.
"We are now faced with the sacred revolutionary tasks to develop the WPK… into an eternal glorious party of (North Korea\’s deceased founding father) Kim Il-Sung and further increase its militant function and role to glorify the country as a great prosperous and powerful socialist nation," it said.
Analysts said the conference would have enormous political significance and would raise the status of Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il\’s youngest son.
"This is an extremely rare meeting," Kim Yeon-Chul, a professor at Inje University, told AFP, adding that the two previous sessions were held in the 1950s and in the 1960s.
"Through this conference, the North will likely grant Kim Jong-Un an official status as a heir apparent," he said.
Kim Yong-Hyun, a professor at Dongguk University, said the conference would be the most important party event since 1980, when a full-fledged convention of all members made public Kim Jong-Il\’s status as Kim Il-Sung\’s successor.
"There will be an important reshuffle of the party\’s official posts aimed at preparing for an eventual succession," he said.
Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said the conference was part of a series of events aimed at reshuffling the country\’s military, party and the government.
Over the past year, North Korea carried out personnel changes at the powerful National Defence Commission chaired by Kim Jong-Il and reshuffled its government cabinet.
"The September meeting, which is aimed at reorganising the party leadership, will wrap up the reshuffle," Yang said.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that the party may anoint Jong-Un as successor behind close doors," he said.
But the North is likely to wait until 2012 before it makes public the son\’s status as his father\’s official successor, Yang said.
North Korea has vowed to build a prosperous socialist state by 2012, when it celebrates Kim Il-Sung\’s 100th birthday.
South Korea\’s spy chief said this week that Kim Jong-Il\’s poor health is driving him to speed up preparations for the transfer of power to Kim Jong-Un.
Won Sei-Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, told parliament Thursday that Kim Jong-Un, 27, was taking a greater role in policy-making than before and frequently accompanied his father on inspection tours.
Speculation about succession in North Korea has intensified after Kim Jong-Il, now 68, suffered a stroke in August 2008. He has since recovered sufficiently to allow him to return to work.