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Factbox: Key facts about North Korea's ruling Workers' Party congress

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened a rare congress of the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday to lay out blueprints for his diplomatic, military and economic policy for the next five years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks on the first day of the 8th Congress of the Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo supplied by North Korea's Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 6, 2021. KCNA/via REUTERS

Here are some facts about the meeting.

WHAT IS THE CONGRESS?

It is designed to review the performance of the ruling party’s Central Committee, a powerful governing body, in implementing policies adopted during the last congress in 2016.

The gathering brought together 250 executives, 4,750 delegates elected to represent some 6 million party members, and 2,000 spectators, the official KCNA news agency said.

The party charter previously required the congress to be held every five years, but only six such meetings had taken place until 1980 before Kim revived it in 2010.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

The congress draws international attention as Kim is expected to unveil a new five-year economic strategy and outline his vision for military and foreign policy, just two weeks before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

It will offer the first glimpse into how Kim wants to shape his relations with the Biden administration, after his 2019 summit with then President Donald Trump failed to reach an agreement on dismantling North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes in return for sanctions relief.

Kim will also address ties with South Korea and ways to promote reunification, according to KCNA.

In 2016, Kim vowed to push ahead with the “byungjin” policy of developing nuclear weapons and the economy in parallel, which led to successful tests in 2017 of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit the U.S. mainland.

Kicking off the congress on Tuesday, Kim claimed a “miraculous victory” in strengthening national power and global prestige, but said the economic plan failed “on almost every sector” amid the coronavirus pandemic, severe floods and sanctions.

WHAT IS ON THE AGENDA?

The congress approved four agenda items, also including a review of legislative and audit issues and the election of a new leadership.

Nearly 75%, or 29 of 39 leaders newly took up their seats at the podium, lists from KCNA showed, as Kim has diluted the power of military commanders and replaced many old executives with younger loyalists, including his sister and party official Kim Yo Jong.

The meeting will last some days, and Kim will likely give a message afterwards after skipping a New Year address last week, analysts said.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Michael Perry

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