North Korea to hold unusual parliamentary session on Sept. 25

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA (BNO NEWS) -- North Korea will hold an unusual second session of parliament later this month, state-run media reported on Wednesday, amid signals that the country under new leader Kim Jong-un is preparing to approve laws which can support economic reform programs.

A brief dispatch from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly decided Monday to convene a second session of parliament in the capital Pyongyang on September 25. The report did not say what is on the session's agenda.

The North's parliament normally meets annually to adopt the state budget, approve important appointments and amendments, and to make formal announcements. The parliament last met in April but the session was overshadowed by the country's attempted launch of a ballistic missile. The international community strongly condemned the failed launch, though the North insists it only wanted to launch a weather satellite.

During the seventeen years Kim Jong-il was in power, the Supreme People's Assembly held double sessions only twice, in 2003 and 2010. South Korean media have speculated that the second session this year may have been called to approve laws that can support new economic reform programs, believed to be in progress under the new regime of Kim Jong-un.

"The unusual gathering of the Supreme People's Assembly means there is a decision to be made through consent from all the citizens," Chang Yong-suk, a researcher at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies of Seoul National University, told the Yonhap news agency on Wednesday. "Economic reform measures or reshuffling power groups like the National Defense Commission could possibly be (such decisions)."

Kim Jong-un was promoted to Supreme Leader in December 2011 to lead the impoverished and secretive country. It came days after his father, Kim Jong-il, died on December 17 after suffering an 'advanced, acute myocardial infarction, complicated with a heart shock,' while on a train for a 'field guidance tour'.

Little is known about Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland and is believed to be in his late 20s, making him the youngest head of state in the world. He reportedly resembles his father the most and has always been the favorite among his three sons, but the sudden death of Kim Jong-il left the North Korean government with little time to prepare him.

In July, a report from the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) mentioned Kim Jong-un has married Ri Sol-ju. Other details about Ri or the marriage were not released, but South Korean lawmakers said the couple is believed to have married in 2009. They also said Ri is 23-years-old and attended Geumsung's Second Middle School before going to China to study singing.

Kim and Ri were seen touring the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in video and photos released by KCNA in July. Some of the photos showed Ri holding Kim's hand while others showed the leader greeting enthusiastic-looking visitors at the amusement park. Two photos and videos also showed Kim trying out one of the park's rides.

Analysts said the footage showed Kim as a benevolent leader who cares about his people in a more affectionate and direct manner, different from his father Kim Jong-il who appeared very reserved and somewhat disconnected in public. The young Kim also appears much more communicative and exudes confidence despite his young age and inexperience, something which is likely to impress North Koreans and have positive effects over time, analysts at the International Crisis Group think-thank said last month.

The announcement of the marriage came just days after a brief government statement said North Korean military chief Ri Yong Ho had been relieved of his official posts during a meeting in Pyongyang. It said Ri, 69, was relieved of his duties due to an unspecified illness, although the reclusive state has previously used illnesses and accidents as a pretext to get rid of high-ranking officials. Others have simply vanished unannounced.

Ri was appointed chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in 2009 and had since been one of the most senior officials in North Korea. He frequently accompanied the new Supreme Leader leader, Kim Jong-un, and previously leader Kim Jong-il until he died in December 2011.

Ri's last known public appearance was on July 8 when he attended a remembrance concert commemorating the 18th death anniversary of Kim Il-sung, who ruled the country from December 1972 until July 1994 and was later named Eternal President of the Republic. Kim Il-sung was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-il, who in turn was succeeded by his son Kim Jong-un.

Ri appeared to be healthy in recent public appearances, raising questions among analysts who believe Kim Jong-un may be purging the ruling elite as he attempts to put his own mark on the impoverished nation he inherited when his father died. On July 17, the military named little-known Hyon Yong Chol as the army's new vice marshal.

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