The real reasons North Korea held Sunday's 'elections'


North Korean performers sit beneath a screen showing images of leader Kim Jong-Un at a theatre during celebrations to mark the 100th birth anniversary of the country's founding leader Kim Il-Sung, in Pyongyang on April 16, 2012.


Ed Jones

SEOUL, South Korea — On Sunday, the North Korean Generalissimo Kim Jong Un did what any leader who is an unwavering advocate of democracy and the rule of law should do: He held elections.

Kim's military dictatorship runs a rubber-stamp parliament called the Supreme People’s Assembly, a 687-delegate body elected every five years. Naturally, the usual autocratic rules apply: There’s only one candidate for each district listed on the ballot. The candidates are approved in advance by the ruling coalition of three political parties, known as the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland.

In practice, the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) dominates the coalition, and always takes the most seats.

This year, Kim Jong Un ran as an assemblyman in the district around Mount Baekdu, a volcano near the Chinese border and (mythical) birthplace of Kim Jong Un’s dad, the deceased dictator Kim Jong Il.

According to Korean lore, Kim the elder was born on its slopes under a star that lit up the heavens and a rainbow. (In reality, Soviet records show he was born in 1941 in a Russian village near North Korea). Baekdu also holds symbolism as the birthplace of another celebrated “father,” Dongun, who according to legend founded the Korean race.

Like in earlier votes, the government reported a 100 percent voter turnout in this election. “As of 18:00 Sunday, all electors registered on the lists of voters went to the polls, except for those on foreign tour or working in oceans, according to a report of the Central Election Committee,” the state mouthpiece, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), said on Monday.

There’s a good reason for that 100 percent turnout — and one that your 7th-grade homeroom teacher might appreciate.

A key election goal is to hold a population head-count, revealing who may have fled the country as a defector. The family of anyone who failed to vote now lives in fear of scrutiny — or worse — of the country’s ruthless security forces. Some North Koreans who have fled abroad are thought to have returned home for the poll, crossing the border illegally at great personal risk.

Of course, the results also serve as a yardstick to show which officials have curried favor with Kim Jong Un.