North Korean government collects cash from residents for polling places ahead of elections

Kim Jong Un leaves a polling location after voting in the 2014 Supreme People's Assembly elections.
Kim Jong Un leaves a polling location after voting in the 2014 Supreme People’s Assembly elections. Image: Rodong Sinmun

Ahead of Sunday’s elections to North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, government officials have demanded monetary contributions from the country’s residents in order to prepare the necessary polling locations.

“The authorities are focusing on preparing polling booths across Chongjin. Everything is about the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) elections right now,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK.

North Korea does not hold free and fair elections. Residents are compelled to vote for one Party-approved candidate per district, and abstaining or submitting a dissenting vote are considered acts of treason.

The city’s streets are plastered with propaganda signage calling for residents to focus all their energy on the election, while university students spent their winter break beautifying the areas surrounding the voting stations (often located at schools and district offices).

Decorations include North Korean flags and propaganda signage on the exteriors, and rules and procedures have been plastered up to describe the election process codified by the Central Election Commission. Workplaces across the country are starting work earlier and finishing later to assist with election preparations.

A monetary contribution of 1500-2500 KPW from every household is also required to cover the costs incurred in preparing the polling stations. “It’s a nominal amount so people tend to hand it over without a fuss,” the source said. “But they keep telling us not to tell any outsiders (foreigners) for fear of how it would look.”

“Do you think the government, which empowers the people’s sovereignty, shouldn’t turn out the pockets of the people to ensure elections? How would they establish voting centers without money then?” neighborhood watch leaders have asked at public lectures, according to the source, who added that they also “told us to keep our mouths shut.”

“At our lecture the inminban head told us that one resident in Chongjin’s Sunam district offered up 100,000 KPW, with the declaration that ‘it’s worth it for our sovereignty,’” said a separate source in North Hamgyong Province.

He added that inminban officials have also been collecting rice and other food provisions to cover the meals of election committee officials.

Given that the contributions are tied to political purposes, residents are not complaining as they have previously done during other state-driven resource procurement campaigns.

“Even a tiny squabble with the inminban head about matters concerning the elections guarantees you’ll be hauled off by the Ministry of State Security on political charges,” a source in Ryanggang Province said.

“The MSS and MPS have been appearing at every inminban meeting in the run-up to the elections to make sure everyone is accounted for and to track our every last movement.”

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