Officials of North Korea’s ruling Korean Workers’ Party are “selecting out” party members aged over 60 as candidates to attend a national party convention scheduled for May, sources in the reclusive, nuclear-armed country say.
The move, which is apparently aimed at presenting a more youthful face to North Korea’s political leadership, has so far been observed only in one province bordering China, but may be part of a broader policy shift, a Japanese reporter with contacts in the region told RFA’s Korean Service.
One to two participants were chosen from party offices in North Hamgyong province in a first round of selections held March 29, with three recommended to attend from large working units, Ishimaru Jiro of Japan-based AsiaPress told RFA.
“However, party members aged over 60 were excluded,” Ishimaru said.
“There is no age restriction to be a member of the party, but now there is a restriction on party members who can participate in the convention,” Ishimaru said. “I get the impression this could reflect a nationwide generational change.”
Orders from the top
The exclusions, which have so far been reported only in North Hamgyong, may have resulted from an order handed down by authorities in the capital Pyongyang, Ishimaru said.
“I think there was an order from the central government. Local authorities in North Korea cannot make their own criteria for selecting participants, right?”
To facilitate the initial selection process in North Hamgyong, local party members were first forbidden to move from the area after March 20, Ishimaru said, adding that candidates then chosen will visit Pyongyang in April to go through a second round of selections.
“Those who successfully complete this second round will attend the party convention as representatives,” Ishimaru said.
About three thousand are expected to attend the national party convention, the seventh to be held since the founding after the Second World War of the isolated one-party state.
Reported by Jung Min Noh for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Ahreum Jung. Written in English by Richard Finney.