Korea holds election, Kim Jong Un runs in legendary district
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[March 05, 2014]
By James Pearson
SEOUL (Reuters) — North Korea, accused of
human rights violations, elects its largely symbolic parliament this
weekend, with leader Kim Jong Un, the third in his family dynasty to
rule the totalitarian state, running unopposed in a legendary mountain
State news agency KCNA said on Thursday that election preparations
were "gaining momentum", with voters confirming their names on
electoral lists for the ballot held every five years.
"Agitation activities are going on to encourage citizens to take
active part in the election with high political enthusiasm and labor
feats, amid the playing of 'Song of the election,'" KCNA reported.
North Koreans, it said, sought to "demonstrate once again the might
of single-minded unity by casting ballots for their candidates".
North Korea stands accused by a U.N. report issued this month of
torture and killings comparable to Nazi-era atrocities. Authorities
in Pyongyang have denounced the report as "faked".
The North's Supreme People's Assembly is empowered by law to approve
the budget and make senior appointments, including to the powerful
National Defence Commission.
In practice, it is a largely symbolic body meeting twice a year in a
country where decision-making authority lies with the ruling Korean
Each district has a single candidate, with the overwhelming majority
from the party, although a few independents, such as pro-Pyongyang
Koreans from Japan, are allowed to take part.
Kim, presumed to be 31 years old, is standing for the 687-seat
assembly for the first time since taking office in 2012 after the
death of his father, Kim Jong Il. And he is running in Paektusan, an
inactive volcano on the border with China described in national
folklore as his father's birthplace.
"I feel very grateful for
your expression of deep trust in me and extend warm thanks from the
bottom of my heart," Kim said, thanking voters and announcing his
candidacy in an open letter released by the KCNA last month.
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A vice minister of construction has held the Paektusan seat since
2009 and it was unclear if he was standing elsewhere.
Voting is compulsory and results are usually announced the following
day, along with turnout figures just short of 100 percent.
Analysts say the entire exercise also functions as a census and a
mechanism to check on the whereabouts of residents and possible
defections or attempts to illegally cross internal borders.
"Travel restrictions and surveillance are ramped up before the
election," Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea, an NGO that works
with North Korean defectors, said in an email.
"Various heads of local work and residential units make sure
everything on their patch is in order, to avoid criticism and
trouble if the election does reveal missing people."
Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack in 2011, held a seat in the
outgoing assembly and was expected to remain as a member.
(Editing by Ron Popeski)
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