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North Korea 'ready' for Eighth Party Congress, state media says

North Korea 'ready' for Eighth Party Congress, state media says
North Korea is preparing for the country’s Eighth Party Congress, but the event could be downscaled amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to South Korean government sources on Thursday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 31 (UPI) -- North Korea could hold its much-anticipated Eighth Party Congress as early as New Year's Day, as top North Korean officials arrived in Pyongyang to receive their credentials ahead of the rare meeting.

Pyongyang's Korea Central Television reported Thursday North Korea's most powerful politicians received their certificates from Kim Jae Ryong, the head of North Korea's Organization Administrative Department, including Choe Ryong Hae, president of the presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly; North Korean Premier Kim Tok Hun; and Pak Pong Ju, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party.

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"Amid high political enthusiasm, [attendees] were full of determination to actively participate in the Party Congress," KCTV said.

North Korea has not made public a date for the event, which is to be presided over by Kim Jong Un, but the meeting could take place as early as Friday, according to South Korean television network SBS.

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Pyongyang's state media also reported fireworks are planned for New Year's Eve in Kim Il Sung Square, where parades have been held during major anniversaries. During the Party Congress, North Korea is expected to reveal its policies toward the United States and South Korea after months of silence.

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Speculation is rising the country could hold a parade in Pyongyang. Earlier this month, analysts writing for 38 North said a "mystery structure" had appeared in Kim Il Sung Square. Over the weekend, commercial satellite imagery showed "thousands of people" at the square.

A South Korean unification ministry official said Thursday the government is keeping a close eye on developments. The COVID-19 pandemic and North Korean wariness about a highly contagious mutation of the coronavirus means the Eighth Party Congress could be "reduced in scale," the ministry said, according to local news service Seoul Pyongyang News on Thursday.

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The South Korean ministry source also said the Party Congress could be held in the April 25 House of Culture in Pyongyang. In 2016, the Seventh Party Congress included 3,667 politicians in participation and 1,387 audience members, according to the report.

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