SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's ruling communist party has finally set a date for its biggest convention in decades, an apparent indication that the regime may be ready to give the aging leader's son a key position that will pave the way for his succession.
Delegates to the ruling Workers' Party will meet in Pyongyang on Sept. 28 to select their "supreme leadership body," the official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday.
The conference will be the party's first major gathering since the landmark 1980 congress where then 38-year-old Kim Jong Il made his own political debut with an appearance that confirmed he was in line to succeed his father, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, as his nation's leader.
Kim Jong Il took control of North Korea when his father died of heart failure in 1994 in what was communism's first hereditary transfer of power. Now 68 and reportedly in poor health two years after suffering a stroke, Kim is believed to be prepping his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, for a similar father-to-son power transition.
Analysts say Kim Jong Un may quietly be appointed to top party posts at next week's convention in a key step in the succession process that will not be announced in state media.
"I believe North Korea has decided to give the successor an official title but not to make it public to the outside world" because publicizing the appointment could make Kim Jong Il a lame-duck leader, said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the Seoul-based University of North Korean Studies.