North Korea’s parliament convened Tuesday for the second time in six months, passing a law that adds one year of compulsory education for children in the socialist nation, the first publicly-announced policy change under leader Kim Jong Un.
The Supreme People’s Assembly’s second meeting of the year was notable mainly as a departure from how Kim’s father did business. Before he died in December, Kim Jong Il convened his legislature just once in most years. And during one three-year period after his own father’s death it didn’t meet at all.
By adding a year to North Korea’s state-funded educational system, from 11 to 12 years, Kim may be trying to cultivate loyalty among younger generations as he consolidates his power base.
Kim Jong Un himself attended Tuesday’s session, which was adjourned after a single day, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. Foreign reporters were denied access.
North Korea’s Constitution allows political parties, but politics is overwhelmingly dominated by the Workers’ Party, founded by Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current ruler. Virtually all legislators are members of the Kims’ party who ran unopposed in the last nationwide election, leading many outside observers to consider the body a rubber stamp for the regime’s policies.