North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is attempting to move away from the "grim" era of his father as he seeks to project power by tapping the charismatic image of his grandfather — the nation's revered founder and "eternal leader" Kim Il Sung.

By holding the first Workers' Party congress in 36 years, Kim underscored the influence of the party, an approach used by Kim Il Sung until his death in 1994, and reiterated his commitment to the "byongjin" policy of dual-development of the economy and military capabilities. In contrast, Kim Jong Il promoted a military-first policy that led to the development of nuclear weapons, while exacerbating an economic decline and a deadly famine that may have killed millions.

"He is continuing to try to distance himself from the style and policies of his father," said Brian Bridges, adjunct professor of Asian politics at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. "The Congress is an echo back to his grandfather. He wants to show himself to be a strong leader like his grandfather, not a reclusive leader like his father."