Kim Jong-un tightens his grip at North Korea’s biggest political event for 36 years

Kim Jong Un was expected to tighten his grip on power on Friday as North Korea kicked off the first congress of its ruling Workers’ Party in 36 years. The hardline leader was presiding over the event being held behind the closed doors of the House of Culture, a stone-built structure draped in red party flags. Journalists were bused in to the capital Pyongyang to report on the proceedings, expected to last several days, but were then banned from entering the building. Security guards dressed in suits and ties surrounded the venue where thousands of officials and party members are meeting.

Now we are greeting the new era of Marshal Kim Jong Un. We should make the American soldiers get out of South Korea and under the leadership of our marshal we can open up the path of reunification.

North Korean Choe Un Su, 75

The last time North Korea’s ruling party held a full congress was in 1980, before Kim Jong Un was even born. The latest one promises to be the country’s biggest political show in years. Pyongyang has been spruced up, with large groups of students and workers preparing for parades and rallies to be held in conjunction with the political theatre going on inside the congress hall. Ahead of the event, the country trumpeted “miraculous results” and said advances in nuclear and ballistic missile developments were “the greatest gifts” for the rare party congress. While minor policy tweaks are expected to be announced, the focus of the event will be on Kim and his role in advancing the North’s military ambitions.

The goal of this congress is really to consolidate Kim’s hold on power. During the rule of Kim Jong Il the focus was very much on ‘military first,’ the armed forces had even more influence than before. Kim Jong Un has been shifting power back to the ruling Korean Workers’ Party.

Mike Chinoy, author of Meltdown: The Inside Story Of The North Korean Nuclear Crisis