SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea said on Friday it would call its parliament into session in April, with the eyes of the world on heir apparent Kim Jong-Un's rise to power in the secretive regime.
The fourth session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly will take place in Pyongyang on April 7, the official Korean Central News Agency said.
Pyongyang usually convenes its rubber-stamp parliament twice a year for a day or two to pass government budgets and approve personnel changes.
Attention is focused on whether Kim Jong-Un, leader Kim Jong-Il's youngest son and heir apparent, will be promoted to become one of the vice-chairmen of the powerful National Defence Commission (NDC).
Jong-Un, believed aged 27, was made a four-star general in September and appointed as one of vice-chairmen of the party Central Military Commission, which oversees the 1.2 million-strong armed forces headed by his father.
"It is interesting to see whether the son becomes an NDC vice-chairman or even the first NDC vice-chairman," Professor Yang Moo-Jin, of the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.
"It will give us an indication as to where the North stands in its efforts to endow him with power and authority needed to become an eventual successor," Yang said.
If Jong-Un emerges as the NDC first vice-chairman, he is likely to be given the same title in the Central Military Commission sooner or later, Yang added.
"This will pave the way for the son's eventual ascension to the throne," he said.
North Korea's 2009 constitution says the NDC chairman, currently the senior Kim, is "the highest leader" of the communist state.
The need for new appointments has become acute after the death of the first NDC vice-chairman, Vice Marshall Jo Myong-Rok, in November last year, and the sudden dismissal of the North's police chief, Ju Sang Song.
Pyongyang said Wednesday that Ju had been dismissed because of illness but experts in Seoul said corruption or ideological differences might have cost him his job.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Jong-Un's young loyalists would likely be brought into the NDC and the cabinet to shape the North's future.
Analysts say the North's ruling communist party has recruited young members in preparation for the son's rise to power.
The South's unification ministry, which handles cross-border relations, said the North's parliament could seal a possible shake-up in the North's leadership.
"We are watching... whether there will be any decisions to change (top) posts," ministry spokesman Chun Hae-Sung told reporters.
The North may present for parliament's rubber-stamp a raft of laws aimed at bringing in foreign investment as part of its 10-year economic development plan announced in January, analysts said.
Popular resentment is reportedly growing in the North as chronic shortages are likely to worsen this year due to higher international food prices and an abnormally cold winter, said Kwon Tae-Jin, an analyst at the Korea Rural Economic Institute.