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For outsiders trying to figure out what's going on in North Korean politics, Sunday's elections for the Supreme People's Assembly may shed some light on what personalities are currently in favor and likely to dominate in the years ahead.
Fictitious as that may sound, Michael Madden, editor of the NK Leadership Watch website and a contributor to the 38 North news bulletin, said it reflects one reason the autocratic North has elections at all:
According to various North Korean migrants and defectors, it is very difficult for a voter to get a hardship dispensation from participating.
Madden said North Korean security officials will review data on nonvoters to glean information on suspicious activity — since absentees could be workers who have snuck off to China for higher pay, people traveling inside the country without formal permission, or military personnel who have gone AWOL.
Neighborhood associations, student groups, workplaces and other local authorities see to it that participation is enforced, according to Seo Jae Pyoung, a 45-year-old North Korean defector who now works for a Seoul-based civic group called the Committee for the Democratization of North Korea.
On paper, the Supreme People's Assembly is the highest organ of North Korea's government.
Because it's an elected body, it puts the D'' in the DPRK.