Inside North Korea's Bizarre, Compulsory Elections

Voters were "singing and dancing" as they cast their ballots
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 20, 2015 9:55 AM CDT
In this July 27, 2013, file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

(Newser) – To say North Koreans turned out in droves to vote in state elections yesterday would be an understatement, because state media are reporting 99.7% voter turnout, Sky News reports. That's only the first eyebrow-raiser about the country's electoral process, held every four years so voters can "choose" mayors, governors, and local assemblies. North Koreans over age 17 are not only required to show, they're also told which preapproved candidates to vote for by placing already prepared ballots in the ballot boxes, CNN notes. And according to Sky, it was a "festive atmosphere," with voters "singing and dancing" as they cast votes. "All participants took part in the elections with extraordinary enthusiasm to cement the revolutionary power," the Korean Central News Agency proclaimed.

Voting is simple: To vote "yes" for the candidate predetermined by Kim Jong Un's Workers' Party, participants just place their ballot in the correct box; those who vote "no" place their ballot in a separate box, all within view of elections officials, the Economist explained in 2014. Abstaining or voting no is viewed as treason, the BBC notes. The real reason for even having the vote is basically to serve as a census of sorts and to keep track of no-show defectors, NK News notes. A professor of Asian studies explains that this election system makes even more extreme the one used in the Soviet Union during the Cold War, including the ridiculously high turnout rates. "People used to joke that on the day of elections that no one would dare to die in North Korea, let alone lose consciousness," he says. As for that 0.3% who didn't vote this time? KCNA says those individuals either live abroad or work "on the high seas," per Chosun Ilbo.

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