For the first time in 36 years, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party will hold a congress, scheduled to begin on Friday. The event will likely include high-office candidate nominations and celebrate the communist regime of current leader, Kim Jong-un – but no one is sure why now.
North Korea has held only seven party congresses in its history. During the last one, in 1980, Kim’s father – Kim Jong-il – was confirmed as the successor to the state’s founder, Kim Il-sung.
“It is roughly the equivalent of a political party convention that we have in the United States,” Michael Madden, a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said.
It’s unclear why Kim Jong-un is calling for a party congress this year, but the Workers’ Party is expected to present a unified image of strength.
“North Korea doesn’t have a large party event like this unless they have their ducks in a row,” Madden said.
He added that it’s unlikely major shifts in leadership – including any change in Kim Jong-un’s ruling status — will be announced. Madden expects demographic changes to the Workers’ Party could be on the agenda, including adding more women and millennial-aged people to leadership positions.