Chapter six of the Socialist Constitution of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea lays out a fairly straightforward democratic (parliamentary) process whereby:

  1. The Supreme People’s Assembly is the highest power in the DPRK, with meetings convened yearly or bi-yearly and national elections every five years (SPA member term five years), and is composed of elected workers/peasants (deputies), with the majority representing the Workers Party of Korea but with the Korean Social Democratic Party and Chondoist Chongu (religious) Party also present to a sufficient extent. The members are “elected on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot”, and have the authority to amend the constitution and introduce major laws.

  2. The Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly consists of members whose term limit is also five years, they can convene meetings, handle day-to-day affairs of the SPA, and are elected by the SPA members.

  3. The State Affairs Commission (completely accountable to the SPA), which functions as the representative of the state and handles regular state affairs, consists of a President (currently Kim Jong Un, hence the “supreme commander” title since he is the major representative of the state of the DPRK), the Vice President, and other members.

  4. The Cabinet (member term limit of five years), has members elected by the SPA and handles day-to-day affairs of the state (SAC).

  5. Local People’s Assemblies (covering multiple municipalities), which are made up of local worker’s deputies that are “elected on the principle of universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot”, approve the local budget for the people’s area which it represents. Regular sessions are held once or twice a year according to the Local People’s Committees which:

  6. -Functions in the same relation to the LPAs that the SASPA functions to the SPA. Consists of members elected by the Local People’s Assemblies whose term is also no more than four years.

As in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, there is no campaign lobbying, and democracy extends to all levels (the Taean Work System functions along the same lines but is not relevant to the discussion). However, the Constitution, some have said, is another matter to reality. The Wikipedia page for “Elections in North Korea” states for example, “Voting against the official candidate, or refusing to vote at all, is considered an act of treason, and those who do face the loss of their jobs and housing, along with extra surveillance.”

This idea stated matter-of-factly is cited from an Al-Jazeera article titled “Foregon Result in North Korea’s Local Elections”, which relies completely on quotes from a total of two sources. Firstly, a reporter in the Republic of Korea, who has no inside knowledge of the country (he cites no actual evidence) and is forbidden by law from extolling the DPRK’s system[1]. Next, a ridiculous conjecture-filled rant from a so-called “expert on North Korea”. The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel cites no evidence again and relies on nothing but his own imagination. The citation offers no actual person with the relevant knowledge and experience to prove their position, and it may be discarded very simply.

A Time Magazine article entitled, “North Korea Elections: A Sham Worth Studying” is equally baroque. The author writes, “voting is mandatory and there is one option on the ballot.” Of course, there is no available evidence that voting is mandatory except for the large voter turnout as compared to capitalist nations. Comparatively, Vietnam had an even higher voter turnout for its 2021 legislative election. The author makes reference to reported narratives in state media and yet does not provide the relevant links even though all NK state media is publicly accessible online. The above narrative attributed to two random speakers is now apparently a common thread among NK defector testimony, which has its own issues[2] (of course a citation to verify this would be too much to ask, as the article provides no citations whatsoever except for the relatively publicized execution of Jang Song-Thaek). Perhaps this constitutes “studying” to the author?

“In November, 1946, North Korea held its first general elections, to approve or disapprove of what the provisional government had done. By this time there were three political parties: the North Korean Labor Party, which was by far the largest; the Chendoguo and the Democrats. These parties formed a ‘democratic front’ and put up a joint ticket, the ‘single-slate ticket’ so criticized in the west.

“I argued with the Koreans about it but they seemed to like their system. Ninety-nine per cent of them came out to vote, and everyone with whom I talked declared that there was no compulsion but they came because they wanted to. I discussed the question with a woman miner. ‘Did you vote in the general elections?’ I asked. ‘Of course,’ she said. ‘The candidate was from our mine and a very good worker. Our mine put him up as [a] candidate.’ I explained the Western form of elections. What was the use of voting, I argued, if there was only one candidate. Her vote could change nothing. It would be a great shame for the candidate, she replied, if the people did not turn out in large numbers to vote for him. He would even fail [the] election unless at least half of the people turned out.

“… ‘We all knew the candidate. We all liked him, we all discussed him,’ she concluded. ‘The political parties held meetings in our mines and factories and found the people’s choices. Then they got together and combined on the best one, and the people went out and chose him. I don’t see what’s wrong with this or why the Americans don’t like it.’

“She paused and then added, with a touch of defiance. ‘I don’t see what the Americans have to say about it, anyway!’ Voting technique was simple. There was a black box for ‘no’ and a white box for ‘yes.’ The voter was given a card, stamped with the electoral district; he went behind a screen and threw it into whichever box he chose. The cards were alike; nobody knew how he voted. Were any candidates black-balled? I learned that there were thirteen cases in the township elections in which candidates were turned down by being thrown into the black box. This fact, which westerners may approve as showing ‘freedom of voting,’ was regarded with shame by the Koreans since it meant that ‘the local parties had poorly judged the people’s choice.’ In one case a candidate was elected but received eight hundred adverse votes, organized by a political opponent. He at once offered to resign, as he had ‘failed to receive the full confidence of the voters’; the three political parties all jointly urged him to accept the post. The Koreans are familiar with the competitive form of voting also. This was used in village elections and in many of the township elections in March, 1947. These elections were largely nonpartisan, nominations being made not by parties but in village meetings. Secret voting followed, choosing the village government from competing candidates” (Strong, 1949).[3]

This firsthand account illuminates firstly the process of the Democratic Front (DFRF) candidate selection which involved surveying and holding meetings among several worker groups that anyone could attend. Then the selected candidate who was chosen via said mass meetings would be voted in through a confirming election which verified the success of the mass assemblies and the work of the Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland (and thus you have political agitation phrases such as “let us all vote in agreement”).

Actual experience elucidating the obfuscated “one candidate” situation as a democratic centralist worker-oriented candidate selection process abruptly does away with the focus of the majority of the critiques from ignorant fools. For example, when Anna Louise Strong protests that the Korean woman’s vote could have no effect, the woman explains that if the candidate receives less than half of the voting pool, they are rejected and a new candidate selection process begins. Even though the Korean perspective is that a rejected candidate means a select failure of the DFRF mass meetings, candidate rejection in some cases does at the same time show that voting was not rigged in favor of what foreign opposition nations would denote as “party selected candidates.” That candidate rejection occurs much less often now only serves to demonstrate the increased effectiveness of the mass assemblies.

Very well, one might say, but we mustn’t forget that this account and subsequent ones took place prior to the Korean War. Isn’t it possible that a “shock” of that scale could transform the political process into something entirely different?

Apart from the fact that the political process remained ostensibly the same (somewhat!), we may observe further evaluations of the system. The Swiss Inter-Parliamentary Union (whose membership encompassed the United States, United Kingdom, south Korea, etc.) for instance published a pamphlet dealing with the DPRK’s parliamentary system in 1992:[4]

“A voter casts a ballot personally to a deputy in candidacy so that this will may be directly reflected in an election of deputies and does so in a place where secret ballot is thoroughly maintained. An announcement of election day varies a bit, but usually in case of election of deputies to the SPA it is made 60 days before and in case of election of deputies to provincial, city and county People’s Assemblies it is made 30 days before… “ (p. 5).

“The SPA enacted a law on enforcement of the perfect and universal free medical care… Thus people in the [DPRK] get free medical treatment with not a penny paid to a hospital… and are provided with favorable environmental and life surroundings. Therefore the average age of the population has risen to 74.3, which is a 36-year increase over that of the pro-liberation days… Bills are submitted by the President of the Republic, the Central People’s Committee, the Standing Committee of the SPA, the Administration Council and all the deputies to the SPA. Bills are approved by show of hands. A constitution should be approved by more than two thirds of all deputies, whereas other ordinances and decisions of the SPA should be approved by more than a half of all deputies present at the meeting” (p. 8).

“At the first session of each SPA, the President of the DPRK is elected in accordance with the general will of the entire people” (p. 9).

“… basic provisions governing the system were laid down in the Constitution and that elections were on the basis of universal direct suffrage with a secret ballot. Constituencies elected roughly one member per 30,000 population. While Constitutional and Parliamentary Information 18 candidates could be nominated by anyone, it was the practice for all candidates to be nominated by the parties. These nominations were examined by the United Reunification Front and then by the Central Electoral Committee, which allocated candidates to seats. The candidate in each seat was then considered by the electors in meetings at the workplace or similar, and on election day the electors could then indicate approval or disapproval of the candidate on the ballot paper” (pp. 17-18).

Res ipsa loquitur, the thing speaks for itself. To denote the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as any less democratic than the Amerikan oligarchy[5] is pure ideology. To repeat the “one candidate on the ballot” nonsense as indicative of pseudo-democracy and ridicule agitational phrases from a place of willing ignorance is to fall into foolish reaction which serves imperialism.


[1] Diane K. (2006). South Korea’s National Security Law: A Tool of Oppression in an Insecure World. Wisconsin International Law Journal, 24(2).

[2] Yun, David. [Messy Room News Sesh]. (2018). Loyal Citizens of Pyongyang in Seoul (서울의 평양 시민들) [Video]. YouTube.

[3] Strong, A. L. (1949). In North Korea: First Eye-Witness Report. Soviet Russia Today.

[4] Inter-Parliamentary Union. (1992). Constitutional and Parliamentary Information (No. 163).

[5] Gilens, M., Page, B. I. (2014, September 18). Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Cambridge University.