Security tightens across North Korea ahead of summit, elections

Scene from 2015 People’s Committee elections. DPRK Today

North Korea has designated a special security period ahead of elections to the country’s rubber stamp parliament slated for next month.

Ahead of the politically important event, the North Korean authorities have strengthened surveillance in each region and dispatched special guards to heighten security around facilities and monuments idolizing the Kim family. Freedom of movement has also been significantly restricted in order to ensure that every citizen votes. Special security periods are rarely handed down over a month before a given event, indicating the importance placed on the upcoming elections and the expected participation from all constituents.

February is also a packed month for political events, as it includes Kim Jong Il’s birth anniversary, Military Foundation Day, and the U.S.-DPRK summit slated for the end of February.

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 government announced the special security period on the 4th (the day before the Lunar New Year) and ramped up restrictions on people moving between regions. They said the orders are in effect until the SPA elections are over,” a source in North Pyongan Province said.

“Patrol units are going to inns and other temporary accommodations to check the residency of the patrons. Enterprises are carrying out thorough safety inspections to hedge against fires or other potential disasters. And patrol units are surrounding memorials honoring the Kim family 24/7.”

Inminban (a type of neighborhood watch) leaders are busy reporting itinerant residents to the central government, according to a source in South Pyongan Province.

“The border areas and Pyongyang are off limits unless you have official business there. In many cases, it’s hard to even move around your own province at the moment,” he concluded.

SHARE
Sang Yong Lee is editor-in-chief of Daily NK and previously spent a number of years working as one of the publication’s foreign correspondents in China, where he was subsequently detained with other North Korean human rights activists. He is also a North Korea analyst for a number of Korean Broadcasting System radio programs.