SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea was preparing its largest political meeting in 30 years, and leader Kim Jong Il was expected to appoint a son to a key Workers Party position in what would be the strongest sign yet of a succession movement in the secretive communist country.
The meeting would be the first major party gathering since the landmark 1980 congress where Kim was confirmed as the man who would take over from his father as the country's next leader.
History may repeat itself this week. Now 68 and believed to be in failing health, Kim is expected to appoint his youngest son to a key party post.
The exact date of the political gathering, set for "early September," has not been announced, but analysts have said it could open as soon as Monday. Local party officials have been busy electing delegates to the conference, according to dispatches in the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.
While the conference is not a top-level party congress such as the one held in 1980, it is the biggest Workers' Party meeting since then and appears to have been convened to address urgent matters — quite likely a transfer of power, analysts said.
It's widely believed that Kim, who has ruled his nation of 24 million people with absolute authority since 1994, has been grooming his third and youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to succeed him since reportedly suffering a stroke in August 2008.