But the assembly, last held in 1993, reflected changes that are ongoing in North Korean society as well as concerns regarding outside influences.
Pyongyang renamed the organization known as the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League on Sunday, and the organization is now called the “Kim Il Sung – Kim Jong Il Youth League.”
The name change and the omission of socialist references is a sign Kim Jong Un is looking to change the country’s outlook more than two decades after the death of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung, according to Donga Ilbo reporter Joo Seong-ha.
North Korea has been shifting course in the post-famine years. In October 2002, for example, Kim Jong Il ceased to use the word “communism” to describe the North Korean political system, according to Joo.
The gathering, held on Saturday and Sunday in Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium, was marked by a speech Kim delivered, where he expressed affection for young North Koreans and showered them with gifts, Yonhap reported.
The youth league represents North Koreans ages 14 to 30, and retains about 5 million active members.
There are several reasons Kim needs to appeal to a younger demographic.
North Korea’s millennials form the bulk of “assault troops” tasked with repairing North Korean infrastructure, and they are often asked to work in harsh weather conditions.
Young North Koreans also depend less on the economic planning of the regime for their livelihood and have grown up in an era of unofficial markets.
The markets have also led to increased North Korean access to smuggled films and television shows from South Korea and the outside world, a cause for concern in Pyongyang.
During the assembly held over the weekend, the North Korean leader said “ideological education must be intensified” in order to “root out the anti-socialist shoots of exotic poisonous weeds that are sprouting in the garden of ‘our-style socialism.'”
North Korea has previously called foreign influences signs of “cultural decadence” and “toxins of capitalism.”