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Rob York is a feature writer for NK News and Ph.D candidate in Korean history at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Kim Jong Un has been elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly, winning every vote in his district, state media reported.
Sunday’s election, the first to take place since Kim took power in late 2011, also featured a 100 percent turnout rate, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
Kim’s race is the only one in which the results have been announced thus far, the Associated Press reported.
“This is an expression of all the service personnel and people’s absolute support and profound trust in supreme leader Kim Jong Un as they single-mindedly remain loyal to him,” the KCNA said.
KCNA said that observers from the UK, Nigerian, Mongolian, and Indonesian embassies observed the elections taking place at polling stations in Pyongyang. KCNA said the embassy observers “came to have a correct understanding of the election system in the DPRK,” after visiting the polling stations.
The foreign embassy observers “stressed that the election system in the DPRK is very advantageous as it enables the people to express their will freely,” the KCNA said.
But Minister of State Hugo Swire of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office later Tweeted, “During #DPRK elections our Pyongyang Embassy visited a polling station and, contrary to media reports, concluded there is no ‘D’ in ‘DPRK'”.
Other embassies in Pyongyang could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
ONE PARTY RACE
Kim ran unopposed in his district, representing Mount Paekdu, which Koreans on both side of the DMZ frequently tie to the to the beginnings to the Korean race and nation, and where North Korean propaganda places the birth of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il.
Rather than a choice of candidates, voters are given one candidate and a choice of either yes or no for that person.
In previous elections state media have typically placed turnout at about 99 percent.
The Supreme People’s Assembly meets infrequently – as little as once per year – and has very little authority.
Still, the results in other areas may be watched closely to determine whether or not a new, younger crop of Assembly members is voted in. If so, it would represent a continuation in the trend toward Kim shuffling in younger persons as a way of consolidating his own power.
In addition to his recent purge and execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, speculation has it that Kim has since November assembled a new “core” of officials, as part of efforts to establish the “lineage of Paektu,” based on the bloodline of the Kim family.
Over the weekend, Kim’s younger sister Yo Jong appeared to cast her ballot, and it has been speculated that she will take on the role of a confidant, similar to that which her aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, played under Kim Jong Il.
Voting is mandatory in the North, with the government using it as an opportunity to track the whereabouts of its citizens.