North urges youth voters

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North urges youth voters

Ahead of today’s general election, North Korea issued a flurry of statements condemning the current administration and urging young voters to cast their ballots, apparently trying to intervene in the South’s politics.

The Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, an outside organization to North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a statement dubbed “A letter to our brothers and sisters in the South” on Monday that South Korean voters should “judge” the current administration by voting.

“This ‘general election’ is not only a matter of who will dominate more parliamentary seats between the ruling and opposition parties,” the statement read, “but also a matter of whether the administration of pro-American conservatives will be prolonged or whether the people will move toward unification and independency from America .?.?. every single person should participate in the legislative election and show their decisive will to separate from the conservative, failed party.”

The committee also spoke out on a series of recent massive scandals in which the current administration was allegedly involved, such as the illegal spying scandal, the shutdown of Busan savings bank, and the ruling party’s vote-buying scandal.

The Korean Students Committee, a Pyongyang-based organization formed by founder Kim Il Sung to spread the North’s political ideology to South Korean students, also urged young voters to exercise their right to vote in a statement dubbed “a letter to South Korean youth and students.”

“Every single vote is not a mere ballot paper, but a weapon of judgment to strike the Lee Myung-bak administration with an iron hammer,” they said in the statement.

It’s not the first time that North Korea tried to intervene in the South’s elections. The past records from the Ministry of Unification show that the North mostly condemned the ruling Saenuri Party, previously the Grand National Party, which is considered relatively hawkish in dealing with North Korean affairs.

In 2002, during the Kim Dae-jung administration, the Workers’ Party’s committee attacked the then-opposition GNP, saying “people should denounce Lee Hoi-chang [then-GNP’s presidential candidate] and the Grand National Party,” ahead of December’s presidential election.

In 2004, North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party’s official mouthpiece Rodong Sinmun also said, “all voters should participate in the election and judge the extremely conservative powers,” three days before the general election. Two days before the October 2011 Seoul mayoral election, the Rodong Sinmun also said, “if a GNP candidate becomes the Seoul mayor once again, the sufferings of Seoul citizens will be worsened again.”

“For the past decades, they seemingly have targeted the so-called conservative political party, which currently is the ruling Saenuri Party, during the past administrations as well,” a Unification Ministry official told the Korea JoongAng Daily. “But the connotation or tone of the criticism is getting more and more aggressive and harsh against the current administration and the ruling party.”

Cheon Seong-whun, a senior research fellow for the Korea Institute for National Unification, told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the ultimate purpose of the North’s election campaign is to help the opposition party win.

“They are trying to target young voters in order to raise a voter turnout and have the opposition party win,” Cheon said. “They seem to be afraid that their rocket launch plan will create a panic atmosphere, which is an advantage to the ruling party, so they are trying to attract voters to the opposition party by intervening in the campaign.”


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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