At last year's parliament session leader Kim Jong-il made his first public appearance after he was suspected of suffering a stroke in 2008. He appeared gaunt, with thinning hair and having lost his trademark paunch.I hope trademarking that paunch wasn't a way to drum up cash for the regime. I think it was the Americans who invented it anyway.
Kim, 68, does not always attend the annual sessions and when he does attend, he typically does not speak. Images of him in his state's official media over the past year have shown him in improved health.
Kim faced a rare crisis to his iron grip on power late last year when a botched currency reform sparked almost unheard of civil unrest, angering an impoverished public by raising prices and making it even more difficult to obtain already scarce food.
Kim has yet to reveal to the North Korean public his plans for succession in the state his family has run for more than 60 years.
Intelligence sources said the North's elite have been informed that he intends to anoint his youngest son, Kim Jong-un, as his heir.
Analysts will be looking to see if Jong-un, 26 and educated in Switzerland, is named as a member of the assembly, which would be a major sign he has been publicly moved into the ruling elite. They will also looking closely to see if there will be a purge of economic cadres because of the currency debacle.
It usually takes a few days for details of the meeting to filter their way out of the secretive state.
Anyway, here are my thoughts, if you haven't yet read them, on the currency reform, which I have dubbed The Great Currency Obliteration of 2009.
Oh, how cool it would be if the rubber-stamp parliament decided not to wield the rubber stamp. One has to wonder if they're casting glances at each other, looking to see signs in the eyes of others that, "Oh, God, no, we can't hand over the country to a Gen-Y heir to the throne." Hijinks ensues.
(Seriously, maybe this would happen if they all get really, really, really drunk. In fact, I'll bet at least several coups were planned while high-ranking parliamentarians were highly inebriated, only to be forgotten in the haze of a hangover the next day. Sigh.)
[left: Fun fact... the Supreme People's Assembly lifted its logo from the Washington State Department of Water & Power.]