North Korea has published the results of elections for the 13th Supreme People’s Assembly through the state-run news outlet KCNA on March 11. The report by the Central Electoral Committee revealed the names and districts of 686 of the 687 delegates elected on March 9 – Kim Jong Un’s election to the 111th district having been reported earlier.
The outcome of the election – which is predetermined by the Worker’s Party of Korea (WPK) and a few smaller, loyal parties through selection of only one candidate per district – is not surprising. Instead, it confirms the rising importance of members of the “third-generation leadership” and the declining influence of many older figures.
‘Though the SPA itself doesn’t have much real power, the position of SPA delegate is important affirmation of status for the men and women who hold it’
The ruling WPK uses elections for three primary purposes. One is to keep tabs on people and their loyalty to the regime. Another is to demonstrate the people’s continuing support for the ruling party – and the smaller affiliated parties – through the people’s vote in favor of the candidates. Voters do have the option to vote against the single candidate on the ballot, though it is very risky and uncommon. This is not democracy as most of the world currently defines it, but is the definition of democracy that has been used by many communist states. Finally, the SPA elections give the regime an opportunity to change the membership of the largest formal grouping of elites in the government, sort of a “who’s who” in North Korean politics. Though the SPA itself doesn’t have much real power, the position of SPA delegate is important affirmation of status for the men and women who hold it.
As far as turnout, state media reported 99.97 of registered voters participated in the election and 100 percent of them voted for the candidates registered by the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland – the grouping of the WPK, Chondoist Chongu Party, Social Democratic Party and the Chongryon. North Korea has not revealed how many seats are now held by each party, but the WPK always holds a significant majority and the other parties are loyal to the WPK anyway. The number of seats in the SPA remained at 687, as it has been since 1990.
Quite a few significant members of the North Korean elite appear to have entered the SPA in this election. Kim Jong Un now holds membership in the SPA for the first time. There are many other significant new members whose rises are linked to Kim:
- Choe Hwi – First deputy director of the WPK Propaganda & Agitation Department
- Han Kwang Sang – Director of the WPK Finance & Accounting Department
- Ja Sung Nam – New DPRK Ambassador to the United Nations
- Jang Jong Nam – Minister of the People’s Armed Forces
- Kim Jong Sun – New chairwoman of the Democratic Women’s Union of Korea
- Kim Myong Sik – Commander of the KPA Navy
- Kim Yong Il – Director of the WPK International Affairs Department
- Ma Won Chun – Deputy director of a WPK Department (with Capital Construction Portfolio)
- O Il Jong – Director of the WPK Military Affairs Department
- Pak Jong Chon – Commander of KPA Artillery Command
- Pak Thae Song – Deputy director of the WPK Organization & Guidance Department
- Pyon In Son – Possibly the new director of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau
- Ri Yong Gil – Chief of the KPA General Staff
- So Hong Chan – First vice minister of the People’s Armed Forces
- Yun Tong Hyon – Senior deputy director of the WPK Organization & Guidance Department
‘A delegate doesn’t have to be from his or her district at all’
There are also a number of people who were notably not reelected to the SPA this time around, signifying their decline. Among them are Vice Marshal Hyon Chol Hae, chairman of the Second Economic Commission Paek Se Bong, Pak Nam Gi (reportedly executed for the botched currency reform), former Minister of Finance Pak Su Gil, and former Chief of the KPA General Staff, Ri Yong Ho.
On the other hand, a few people held on to their SPA positions despite perceived declines or recent purges. Kim Kyok Sik, who had been replaced as Chief of the KPA General Staff, was reelected, as was Ji Jae Ryong, the DPRK Ambassador to China who is believed to have been an associate of Jang Song Taek. Even Kim Kyung Hui’s name remains on the list of delegates, despite rumors she committed suicide or left the country.
District assignments appear to be more symbolic than indicative of a delegate’s actual affiliation with a constituency. Many of the electoral districts for the SPA are geographic features such as rivers and some are even in South Korea, such as Mount Halla. Kim Jong Il changed his district in every election in which he ran. The delegate whom Kim Jong Un voted for in Pyongyang, Kim Kwang Hyok, is for the Taebaeksan district, and Choe Ryong Hae is delegate for Okcho’n, which is in South Korea. A delegate doesn’t have to be from his or her district at all. Therefore, one can’t draw meaningful conclusions about a delegate’s identity based on the district which he or she nominally represents. Assertions that the Kim Kyung Hui and Kim Yong Nam elected to the SPA are not the well-known ones, but different people with the same names, based on their districts may not be correct.
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 920 words of this article.