Saturday, July 20, 2024

North Korea holds key parliamentary meeting without Kim Jong-un’s attendance

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North Korea has convened a two-day parliamentary session in Pyongyang to discuss budgetary and other issues, including legislation against foreign cultural influences, but without the attendance of leader Kim Jong-un, its state media said on Thursday. The North held the 8th session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

No messages by Kim were issued in public in regard to South Korea or the US, reports Yonhap News Agency. The SPA is the highest organ of power under the North’s constitution, although it rubber-stamps decisions by the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. The parliamentary session had drawn keen attention from the outside world as a possible stage for Kim to send messages targeting the South or the US, or announce the country’s development of nuclear and other major weapons.

This week’s session, instead, focused on domestic issues, such as reviewing the state budget, organisational issues and adopting a law on the “protection of the cultured Pyongyang dialect”, according to the KCNA. The adoption of such legislation appears aimed at tightening state control over the inflow of outside culture by regulating the use of South Korean styles of speech, observers said.

On budgetary issues, the North decided at the SPA meeting to increase the overall state expenditure by 1.7 per cent on-year in 2023, without mentioning the size of the total budget. It will also raise spending on the economic sector by 1.2 per cent on-year. Spending on the defenCe sector will account for 15.9 per cent of the total budget this year, the same proportion of last year. The country also decided to allocate 45 per cent of its 2023 budget in developing its economy and improving people’s livelihood, it added. The reclusive country’s economy has been faltering under global sanctions and the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.

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