Elections, North Korean-style
KCNA has announced that elections for local People’s Committees will be held 24 July. According to the North Korean constitution such elections are to be held every four years, and insofar as the last elections were in June 2007, these would be more or less according to schedule. This could be interpreted as a sign of the "normalization" or stabilization of North Korean politics, at least in its formal functions. It is expected that the elections will be used to promote younger delegates, including people thought to be loyal to Kim Jong-un.
But the elections may have a social control aspect as well. For one thing, voters have to be registered, and canvassing the local population is a way of identifying those who have left for China and either punishing their families, or extracting bribes for not doing so.
This development appears to be part of a broader crackdown in which the authorities have reportedly prohibited women from traveling to the China border, attempting to root out border guards believed to be involved in enabling defection (with Lee Seok Young at DailyNK even reporting suicides of NSA agents caught up in the sweep), and intensifying a campaign to seize cells phones smuggled in from China. Speculation is that the authorities are concerned about leakage of information from China, particularly about events in the Middle East. The mainstream press is now picking up on the story discussed earlier here about the North Koreans leaving workers in Libya stranded rather than repatriating them. I wonder how many North Koreans are in Syria?