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North Korea prepares for life after Kim Jong-il

North Korea prepares for life after Kim Jong-il
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Official media in the secretive state have today announced an official meeting of the national communist party slated for the 28th of September.

It is the first of its kind since 1966.

Members are due to appoint the new party hierarchy and, according to observers, set in motion the succession to Kim Jong-il, whose health is said to be failing.

The 68-year-old leader is thought to have had a stroke in August 2008 and to have diabetes and kidney problems.

A propitious time, then, to begin the transfer of power by giving his son, Kim Jong-un an official role.

Kim Jong-un accompanied his father on a secretive visit to neighbouring China at the end of August -some say to get Beijing’s approval.

Kim Jong-Il had underlined the importance of the upcoming generation.

Swiss-educated Kim Jong-Un will henceforth be referred to as the “young captain” by state media, another strong sign of his growing profile.

But no up-to-date pictures of him have been published – for the moment, he will stay in the shadows.

If his father dies before he is ready to take over, then Jan Song-Taek, Kim Jong-Il’s brother-in-law will govern as regent. It is understood he will be granted more authority in the meeting on the 28th.

And a steady hand will be needed at the helm. North Korea is facing renewed food shortages as a result of this summer’s floods, coming as they did on top of an economy already in ruins.

Internationally speaking, the country is as isolated as ever.

Even more so since PyongYang slammed the door shut on denuclearisation talks in April 2009.