North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a giant celebration of the country’s main youth league (김일성사회주의청년동맹, also known as the Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League – KISSYL) on Sunday night, capping the organization’s first gathering in more than 23 years.
The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League (whose secretary is Jon Yong-nam) plays a major part in North Korea’s social system. This organization changed three times its name. In 1945, this was the Youth League of North Korea (북조선민주청년동맹), starting from 1961, the Youth League of the Korean Workers’ Party (사회주의로동청년동맹) and finally was rebranded as the Kim Il-sung Youth League (김일성사회주의청년동맹) in 1997.
Young people from the ages of 14 to 30 are expected to join and take part in activities ranging from study sessions to helping out in major construction projects. North Korea says the youth league has 5 million members.
Pyongyang’s May Day Stadium, which has a capacity of 150,000, was almost full Sunday night, and the crowd stood and cheered as Kim Jong Un walked in.
The event lasted just over an hour, with thousands of torch-carrying youths rushing around the stadium in formation, making patterns, symbols and slogans. Fireworks burst above the stadium at the show’s climax.
North Korean state media did not immediately report on what took place at the 9th Congress of the youth league, which ran Friday through Sunday. Foreign media were not allowed in. The 8th Congress was held in February 1993. Until the 2000s, the Youth League was carefully managed by the Jang Sung-thaek’s clique.