North Korean members of
parliament have opened a new legislative session by formally re-appointing Kim
Jong Il the leader of the country. State television showed the North Korean
leader attending the session, Thursday, ending
months of absence from public view.
Intelligence agencies believe the North Korean leader suffered
a stroke in the middle of last year. Until Thursday, he had all but disappeared
from public view. Mr. Kim's previously stout image appears visibly
A North Korean newsreader
announced Mr. Kim remains firmly in charge of the country.
She says Kim Jong Il has been re-appointed as chairman of the
country's National Defense Commission.
The appointment was the first order of business Thursday at the
North's legislature, a ceremonial body which exists mainly to approve dictates
from the central communist party. The title of Defense Commission Chairman
effectively makes Mr. Kim leader of a government that teaches children to
worship the Kim family from birth.
launch of a long-range rocket this week was seen by many observers as a means to
rally public sentiment behind the 67-year-old leader, and help him reassert the
perception that he remains healthy and in charge.
North Korean television has been showing mass rallies which
took place Wednesday to celebrate the launch.
Choe Tae Bok, secretary of the North's ruling party, tells tens
of thousands of people at the gathering the launch was a "historical victory
over other countries, and the fruit of wisdom and talent."
Brian Myers, a specialist in North Korean political propaganda
at South Korea's Dongseo University, says even under the North's authoritarian
system, building public support is crucial.
"I think many people in the West seem to mistake North Korea
for a sort of 1984, East Germany-style 24-7 surveillance state. And it really
isn't. It doesn't have either the financial means or the technological means,"
Scholars like Myers say the
big question in the days ahead is what if any changes the North's leader will
make in the structure of the government. Such changes could suggest Kim Jong Il
may be clearing the way for a future successor.