As television captures smiling women parading down Pyongyang’s streets calling on the North Korean public to go to the polls for the national assembly election Sunday, Lee Young Hwa of Osaka is upset over his failed attempt to run against Kim Jong Il in his constituency.
Osaka-born Lee, a North Korean resident of Japan and associate professor at Kansai University, decided late last month to compete as a candidate against Kim, the reclusive nation’s de facto leader who is running for a seat on the Supreme People’s Assembly from constituency No. 666.
Lee’s request to run in the same constituency as Kim, however, has been rejected by the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), which declined to give him an application form. Lee, 43, who studied in Pyongyang in 1991, maintains that Kim is solely responsible for the current financial failure and mass starvation in North Korea.
He said that in this election, he intended to challenge the “North Korean-styled democratic election,” in which rival candidates are effectively banned from running and casting a no-confidence vote is practically impossible because of the close surveillance prevailing in the Stalinist state. “The fact that my candidacy was not granted already proves that the coming election is corrupt,” Lee said. “They’d better change the name of the country from the current ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’ to the ‘Kim Dynasty.'”
According to the North Korean Constitution, overseas residents of North Korean nationality can run in the country’s elections in the constituency of their choice. However, Chongryun spokesman Choe Kwan Ik explained that to qualify as a candidate, one needs to have a recommendation from a pro-Pyongyang organization.
Lee has insisted he was backed by two organizations — Zainichito, a political party he formed in 1992 to demand that the Japanese government grant suffrage to foreigners living in Japan, and Rescue the North Korean People! Urgent Action Network, another group led by Lee that aims to help democratize North Korea. However, Choe calls both groups “anti-North.”
“(Lee) is a traitor. He just wants to do his media stunt,” Choe said. “We don’t care what he says.” Sources familiar with North Korean politics say Kim Jong Il is expected to be appointed head of state on or before Sept. 9 — the day the communist nation marks its 50th anniversary.
Kim’s inauguration as head of state would complete the power transfer from his late father, Kim Il Sung, the sources said.
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