North Korea: Kim Jong-un’s rare admission of weakness

This is not something you hear about everyday but Kim Jong-un's government has admitted to weakness.

Kim Jong-un election
© Mikhail Svetlov / GETTY IMAGES
Kim Jong-un election

Kim Jong-un is known for ruling North Korea with an iron fist. Rules in his country are very clear even though some of them are very random. Moreover, Kim Jong-un cultivates an atmosphere filled with fear.

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Rumours about him having a general eaten by piranhas and placing his uncle in a cage with hungry dogs are sure to deter anyone from putting a toe out of place. Though these are unverified some clear facts do demonstrate the strict nature of his regime.

For instance, when it comes to elections, they are mandatory in North Korea and participation often nears 100%. But not this time…

A slight decrease in participation

Reuters reports that this regional election saw less people showing up on election day. However, don’t expect an incredibly low number. The percentage went from ‘99,.8%’ to ‘99.63%’.

Even though the difference is almost non-existent this doesn’t prevent reporters from seeing this as a sign of a weakening regime.

Reuters, for instance writes:

a sign analysts say that could indicate a minor weakening in state control in a country where voting is considered mandatory.

A historic admission of weakness

On top on this (very) slight decrease in participation, the election that took place on 27 November has allowed space for a rare admission from the North Korean government.

Indeed, for the first time since the 1960s, North Korea has admitted to dissent. Let us explain. Though since August 2023, elections allow several candidates to run for office, this wasn’t the case for this election. That meant that North Koreans only had two voting options: either they approved of the candidate or they dissented.

Surprisingly, the candidate didn’t get 100% approval and to everyone’s surprise the government admitted it. The percentage of people who voted 'no' is very low (less than 1%) but this kind of admissions are so rare that they are worth noting!

Reuters reports that the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada perceives this as a way to portray North Korea as a democratic country.

The portrayal of a more democratic society, particularly in comparison to South Korea and the U.S., is aimed at reinforcing the regime's legitimacy and authenticity on the world stage (...)

However, do not let this admission fool you, voting is still closely monitored - citizens are watched when they place their ballots.

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