N. Korea prepares for biggest convention in 30 years

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The conference comes amid tensions with Washington and the international community over the North’s nuclear program, as well as a standoff with Seoul over the deadly March sinking of a South Korean warship.

However, the regime announced Monday that a seven-member crew of a South Korean fishing boat seized last month in its waters would be released as a humanitarian gesture.

The impoverished nation also is suffering from the effects of a disastrous attempt at economic reform.

Delegates are expected to elect about 150 to 250 representatives to the party’s Central Committee, as well as a core group of 30 to 40 leaders to the key Political Bureau and other departments, analyst Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute think tank near Seoul said Monday.

He predicted that preliminary sessions will begin Wednesday, with the main session taking place Thursday — the day North Korea celebrates the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.

South Korean officials said troops, artillery and tanks were massing near the capital in apparent preparation for a military parade, either for the party convention or for a Workers' Party milestone taking place next month.

Good Friends, a Seoul-based civic group that sends food and other aid to North Korea, said convention registration began Saturday and delegates were touring historic sites.

At one Pyongyang museum, black-and-white photos depicted the historic Workers' Party congress of 1980, held at the April 25th House of Culture.

One photo depicted the late Kim Il-sung taking the podium to address delegates, APTN footage showed. Another showed a young-looking Kim Jong-il — with a full head of black hair and slouching slightly in his seat — watching the proceedings intently with a briefcase and sheaf of papers before him.

Associated Press writers Sangwon Yoon and Ye Sol Lee contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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