North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has temporarily banned all weddings and funerals — as well as travel in and out of Pyongyang — for security reasons ahead of a rare party congress. In addition, anyone arrested before the 7th Congress of the ruling Workers Party which starts on 6 May will be considered a political criminal, reports the Daily NK.
Patrols by the Ministry of People's Security are making random checks not only in the homes of ordinary people, but also at hotel rooms to examine identification papers to make certain the event is completely secure, according to a source in South Pyongang Province.
"They are creating a day-to-day atmosphere that is terrifying," the source added. Citizens have been ordered to spruce up the capital for the congress.
The nation hasn't held a party congress since 1980, when Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il, was officially confirmed as the successor to the state's founder, Kim Il-sung.
This time, the "supreme leader," 33, is expected to further solidify his power, declare the nation a nuclear state, and reveal his plans for North Korea's economy to thousands of delegates expected to attend. The congress is expected to run four or five days and will be watched for any new policies.
Many observers believe North Korea is committing far too many resources to developing nuclear arms at the expense of its economy. But in recent comments ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference North Korea's foreign minister Ri Su-yong insisted to reporters that the economy remains at the forefront of the upcoming congress.
"I'm sure our country will be even more vibrant after the party congress to build up a more prosperous and powerful, economically sound nation," he said. "The first thing is to advance the pace of economic building ... the second is to improve the people's living standards ... and the third, to strengthen our national defence capabilities.
"The real source of power in our country isn't nuclear weapons or any other military means," he added, "but the single-minded unity of the people and the leader."
In a surprise in late April, Ri also offered to make a compromise with regards to its nuclear programme, suggesting that it would scale down its activities if the US agreed to suspend its joint military drills with South Korea in the region.