Kim Jong Un stops short of major reforms, Seoul says

SEOUL, June 30 (UPI) — Kim Jong Un is taking symbolic steps to consolidate his power and confer more authority to non-military branches of government but he has yet to undertake major reforms.

The North Korean leader convened the fourth meeting of Pyongyang’s 13th Supreme People’s Assembly – less than two months after the gathering of its Seventh Party Congress on May 6.

The most significant development of the rubber-stamp assembly was the replacement of the North Korean National Defense Commission with a new State Affairs Commission, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The NDC was dominant under former leader Kim Jong Il and his “military-first” policy but his son has been emphasizing the dual importance of economic and nuclear weapons development.

But the name change and restructuring are minor developments, according to a Seoul unification ministry who spoke to local news service News 1.

Kim reshaped the Korean Workers’ Party at the party congress in May, and is doing the same for the other branches of government, the official said.

The name of the commission may have changed, but the central focus of power has not significantly shifted, the official added.

Some analysts in the South had suggested major changes would take place ahead of the parliamentary meeting, but generational changes were kept to a minimum, according to the unification ministry.

The Journal reported the majority of State Affairs Commission members are established political figures. North Korean Premier Pak Pong Ju, in charge of economic policy, was named one of three vice chairmen.

The unification ministry also said Thursday Pak’s appointment shows Pyongyang’s commitment to a five-year economic plan, but the meeting did not highlight any specific production goals.

The lack of detailed planning shows North Korea is struggling in the absence of major foreign investment and has yet to find a solution under heavy international sanctions, according to the ministry.

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