Weddings and funerals have been banned and Pyongyang is in lockdown as preparations for a once-in-a-generation party congress get underway in North Korea.
The ruling Worker’s Party of Korea, headed by the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is due to stage the first gathering of its kind for 36 years on Friday.
Free movement in and out of the capital has also been forbidden and there has been an increase in inspections and property searches, according to Daily NK, which claims to have sources in the country.
The temporary measures are said to be an attempt to minimise the risk of “mishaps” at the event, according to Cheong Joon-hee, a spokesman at South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
The last party congress was held in 1980, during which Kim Jong-un’s father – Kim Jong-il – was confirmed as the successor to the state’s founder, Kim Il-sung.
Mr Jong-un, 33, who is already the country’s supreme leader, is expected to use the congress to cement his leadership, declare North Korea a nuclear state and outline his vision for the nation’s economic and military future.
The party’s official newspaper, said: “The [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] proudly joined the ranks of advanced nuclear and space powers while demonstrating the might of the invincible politico-ideological, military and youth power and is now dashing ahead toward to a socialist economic power and highly civilised nation.”
In March, the UN Security Council approved its toughest sanctions yet on the nation, with an aim to withhold funds being used to finance the state’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, following a series of military tests this year.
The sanctions have added to the socialist dynasty’s economic turmoil. Following the vote, US ambassador Samantha Power explained, “Virtually all of the DPRK’s resources are channelled into its reckless and relentless pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.”
Speaking in New York ahead of a UN climate change conference, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Su-yong told reporters the economy remained at the forefront of the congress.
He said: “One of the most important things through this party congress is to show to the entire world the union of our people. 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.
“The first thing is to advance the pace of economic building for a powerful nation. The second is to improve the people’s living standards and to find the best, optimum ways to improve the people’s living standards under these circumstances, 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, but the single-minded unity of the people and the leader. This power of unity we have is the real source of power that leads our country into victory.”
The congress is likely to last four or five days.
It follows a 70-day “loyalty drive” which has seen members of the country’s workforce put in extra hours to increase productivity and show their devotion to the leader and the Worker’s Party of Korea.
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