A picture of Kim Jong-un voting as reported by North Korean state-run media. There appears to be a box for opposing votes to the left. Published in Rodong Sinmun.

<Inside N. Korea> The Major Changes Surrounding the November 26 Elections(1)  For the first time, multiple candidates on secret ballots for preliminary election…a small change in past elections

The North Korean regime held an election for local people’s committee delegates on November 26. A November 28 report in the Minju Chosun, the official publication of the Cabinet, quoted a report from the Central Elections Guidance Committee that stated that voter turnout was 99.63%. A total of 27,858 candidates were elected, while 0.09% of voters in the provinces and 0.13% of voters in cities and counties voted against the candidates. Whatever the realities of the election, how was it conducted? ASIAPRESS asked a reporting partner in the country about what election day looked like. (KANG Ji-won / ISHIMARU Jiro)

◆ A red-colored “Against” box is placed at voting stations

The reporting partner who provided information about election day lives in a city in North Hamgyung Province and is a Workers’ Party member who works at a state-run enterprise.

―― Tell us about election day.
Starting at 10 AM on November 26, people from each inminban (neighborhood watch unit) and district were gathered to confirm their names, ages, places of residence, and ID cards, and then they signed their names before receiving ballots. A ballot station was established at the district office.

※ Inminban: North Korea’s smallest administrative unit, which is typically made up of 20-30 households.

―― Elections in North Korea have been described as festivals.

Children and women had a lot of difficulties because it was so cold. A troupe of singers was mobilized from a school to wave flowers and sign in front of the ballot station. The Socialist Women’s Union organized a propaganda unit to dance, but it was so cold that they wore pants underneath their jeogori (part of a hanbok).

―― What procedures did the authorities have in place for voting?

People took their ballots and entered the ballot station where a person checked their ballots. Then people went into a room behind a curtain and placed the ballots in a ballot box.

This time, there was a red-colored box for ballots rejecting the candidates. There had been a box with the words “For” and “Against”; but the “For” box was in front of the “Against” box. They set it up in a way that made it hard for people to place their ballots in the “Against” box.

The same picture but Kim Jong-un’s hand is magnified. He is holding what is called an “election ticket.” Published in Rodong Sinmun.

◆ Nobody voted against the candidate

―― In past elections, the authorities have always encouraged people to accept the candidates. Was that the case this time as well?

The person watching the entrance to the ballot station explained that we could vote for or against the candidate, but I don’t think anyone voted in opposition to the candidate. It would be enormously burdensome for someone to do that given that everyone has always just accepted the candidate presented by the authorities.

―― What was the response to the election by those around you?

After the voting was over, some people half-joked that the authorities may have to do another election if too many votes went against the candidate, and there was curiosity about whether the authorities would look into whether anyone voted against the candidate. People found the addition of the “Against” box to be of interest, but everyone knew that the box had no effect whatsoever (on their voting). I didn’t feel like the (elections) system had changed by that much.

―― Did sick or injured people participate in the election?

I heard that the city hospital conducted an ‘mobile election’ for patients. Anyone with difficulties getting around was told to vote on November 25.

※ ASIAPRESS communicates with reporting partners through Chinese cell phones smuggled into North Korea.

Women gathered in front of an “elections station” in traditional Korean clothing. From a video published on November 29, 2023 by Urriminjokgirri.