North Korea held the third session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly on Sunday, according to state media. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
April 13 (UPI) -- North Korea's Kim Jong Un did not attend the third session of the 14th Supreme People's Assembly, but senior officials including Ri Son Gwon were appointed to key diplomatic posts, state media said Monday.
Kim did lead a meeting of the Korean Workers' Party's central committee's political bureau on Saturday, when he called for tougher responses against COVID-19.
Ri, who currently serves as Pyongyang's foreign minister, was named a member of North Korea's state affairs commission specializing in diplomatic channels, Rodong Sinmun stated. The meeting of the nation's rubber-stamp parliament took place on Sunday, according to the report.
Ri's appointment to the state commission comes more than three months after being named to the top diplomatic post. Ri riled South Koreans in 2018 when he used derogatory language to address visiting South Korean corporate executives in Pyongyang.
Ri was appointed to the state commission with Kim Hyong Jun, currently the deputy chairman of the international affairs department of the Workers' Party.
This year's assembly focused on domestic concerns and eschewed bold moves that could warn the United States or South Korea.
Moon Sung-mook, a senior researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy in Seoul, said the North Korean leader might have skipped this year's meeting because of a lack of agenda.
"With no special reason to address any results in [North Korea's] diplomacy with the United States or the South, there was at present no reason from [Kim] to participate," Moon told South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun.
North Korea state media also said the government has agreed to increase the portion of its budget going toward healthcare by 7.4 percent. New construction occupies about half the assembly's budget. In March, Kim had called for the construction of a new hospital in Pyongyang amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Officials attending the Supreme People's Assembly on Sunday were seen not wearing masks.