North Korea's parliament has passed a law to add one more year to compulsory education in the first publicly announced policy change under leader Kim Jong-un.

The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) usually meets in April and a second annual session is rare as deputies convened in the capital, Pyongyang, for the second time in six months a notable departure from the once-a-year sessions during late leader Kim Jong-il's rule.

The session is being watched closely for policy changes under new young leader Kim Jong-un, who took over as leader after his father's death in December.

According to the official Korean Central News Agency, the parliament voted to extend state-sponsored schooling from 11 to 12 years. Kim was among those attending the session, said the KCNA .

North Korea's constitution guarantees free education for its schoolchildren. However, the dispatch did not say how much adding another year to schooling would cost the government.

There were no other immediate details about further policy changes if any during the session at the austere Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang.

Possible economic changes

No agenda has been released, but many believe the meeting could also be used to cement changes in the power structure or approve some economic reform.

Hints of change in North Korea
By Harry Fawcett

It also follows unconfirmed reports that economic changes aimed at boosting food production could be introduced.

The Supreme People's Assembly has 687 elected deputies from across the country who meet to discuss and pass laws and policies, as well as elect or recall figures serving in leadership posts of top state organisations, according to Kim Song Chun, an official from the parliament's presidium.

At the last session in April, Kim Jong-un was made first chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission, the body's top post.

The presidium did not release an agenda for the one-day session, and foreign reporters were denied access to the session.

According to North Korean law, the legislators have to win approval of a committee - made up of more than 100 voters to stand in the elections.

The law allows for a contest between multiple candidates, but in the last polls all the deputies from the ruling Workers' Party - were elected unopposed from every constituency.

Source: Agencies