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North Koreans keeping an eye on US presidential election

North Koreans keeping an eye on US presidential election

The U.S. presidential election is billed as one of the most exciting in years, and the fascination has even penetrated one of the world's most isolated nations: North Korea.
North Koreans accompanying the New York Philharmonic this week displayed knowledge of candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama and the U.S. primary voting system.
But they shied from expressing any preference for whom they would like to see move into the White House.
"Obama, Hillary, I don't care about that. It's your problem, it's your affair," O Nam Hyok, a translator assisting the delegation, said when asked by an American journalist if he was following the political race. "Without the American president, we can live."
If they could choose someone, O said North Koreans would prefer "the person who would stop the hostile policy toward" North Korea.
"Generally we don't like the American government, but people are people _ they're human beings," he said. "A lot of American people would like to have good relations with the DPRK."
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the North's official name. However, its own electoral process is anything but democratic.
North Korea does hold elections, where all candidates are members of state-approved parties.
In the last vote in 2003 for the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's equivalent of a parliament that usually meets once or twice a year to rubber-stamp the budget and other policies, 99.9 percent of registered voters went to the polls. All supported the sole candidates running for 687 seats.
Even North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was one of the candidates, according to state media, and won his seat with 100 percent of the vote.
Kim is not president of North Korea _ that title still rests with his father, Kim Il Sung, who died in 1994 and is the country's "eternal president."
It is the elder Kim who remains the focus of the North's personality cult, his visage seen on lapel pins worn by all North Koreans.
Members of the Supreme People's Assembly are elected for five-year terms, meaning this year should also be an election year in the North. But the only campaign here is that of the omnipresent propaganda glorifying the Kims.
One billboard shows a fist crushing an American soldier, and reads: "We will settle the score with those who hurt our pride wherever they are."
Philharmonic musicians were briefed ahead of their visit by a diplomat based in Pyongyang who told them to avoid talking about politics.
But Sherry Sylar, associate principal oboe, said her state-provided translator brought up the subject, "asking about Democrats and Republicans" and President George W. Bush. "She's very up to date," Sylar said.
That translator, Byon Hye Un, said she heard there would be a presidential election and knew that one of the candidates was former President Bill Clinton's wife. She said she got her news through weekly meetings where issues were discussed _ presumably a type of party gathering.
"Frankly speaking, we are not interested who will be the U.S. president," she said. "But we hope the next U.S. president will be (a) person who loves peace."
Another North Korean said he knew about Super Tuesday, the date when many U.S. states held presidential primaries, and that Obama had been compared to former President John F. Kennedy for his oratorical skills.
"Maybe the election will affect the foreign policy of the American administration, but I don't know how much," said the official, who only gave his surname, Kim, and said he worked at the Information Commission.
The North's official media has not commented on this year's election.
After the U.S. elections in 2006, the North's media were unusually quick to report that the Democrats had won a majority in Congress and noted the Republicans suffered a "crushing defeat."
North Korea's media also have previously leveled insults at members of the current administration and Bush personally, calling him a "political imbecile."
However, those types of personal barbs have lately been mostly absent in official propaganda, which instead maintains a near-daily verbal barrage against "U.S. conservative hard-liners" who the North says thirst for war on the peninsula.
The countries have made strides in resolving a standoff over the North's nuclear weapons program, although progress has slowed after disagreements over Pyongyang fulfilling a promise to give a full declaration of its work to make atomic bombs.


Updated : 2021-06-22 22:23 GMT+08:00