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Kim Jong Un's voting companion sparks interest

By Euan McKirdy, CNN
updated 12:48 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un won his first parliamentary election with 100% of the vote
  • Who Kim chose to cast his vote with has sparked interest
  • Kim was accompanied to a polling station by his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong
  • Her presence was politically significant, the International Crisis Group told CNN

(CNN) -- That North Korean leader Kim Jong Un won his first parliamentary election with a clear 100% of the vote might not be remarkable, but who he chose to cast his vote with certainly has sparked interest amongst Korea-watchers.

Kim was accompanied to a polling station at Kim Il Sung University of Politics by his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, in what was her first official appearance.

The state-managed parliamentary election was the first "election" for Kim, who is the third leader in a dynastic lineage that has ruled the Stalinist state since 1948.

Critics have discounted North Korea's electoral process as a political show to legitimize the country's rubber stamp parliament, given that there is only one named candidate for each electoral district.

Unanimous vote, 100% turnout

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, tours a frontline military unit, in this image released July 16 by state run North Korean Central News Agency. A recent United Nations report described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world." North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, center, tours a frontline military unit, in this image released July 16 by state run North Korean Central News Agency. A recent United Nations report described a brutal North Korean state "that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world."
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The country's Central Election Committee released a report that Kim was unanimously elected as Deputy to the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) of the DPRK, with 100% turnout.

On March 13, state media quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying: "All its citizens of the DPRK took part in the election to consolidate as firm as a rock the people's power chosen by themselves, fully enjoying their rights as the genuine masters of the state and society, and voted for the candidates with loyalty and patriotism."

The spokesman criticized a U.S. State Department spokesman's "impudent" comment that North Korea's election process was undemocratic.

"This is nothing but a ridiculous jargon of those who cannot understand the advantageous election system of the DPRK as they are engrained with repugnance toward the Korean-style socialist system," he said.

"The U.S. had better feel ashamed of the American-style election which decides everything with fraud and swindle and its dollar-almighty election system in which a duck on a pond can be a president if it has money, and mind its own affairs before impudently finding fault with others."

Daniel Pinkston, Deputy Project Director, North East Asia for the International Crisis Group, told CNN that Kim Yo Jong's presence by Kim's side was politically significant.

"Recently over the past year there have been these glimpses of her in public and rumors about her position in the party," he said. "It's an event to introduce her."

Kim Yo Jong's presence as a "senior official of the Party Central Committee" may point to a generational power shift, with some speculating that she may be ready to take over her aunt's role in the upper echelons of North Korea's political elite.

There has been some confusion surrounding the current status of Kim's aunt, who is also late ruler Kim Jong Il's sister.

South Korean intelligence agencies believe that it may refer to another individual.

Waning influence

While Kim's aunt's name -- Kim Kyong Hui --appeared on a list of SPA members, a South Korean Unification Ministry spokesperson told CNN there is a possibility she has not been re-elected to the Assembly.

"We cannot be 100% certain if that is her or someone else. We have not been able to confirm and need further verification," the spokesperson said.

Pinkston does not believe that Kim Kyong Hui is likely to suffer the same fate as her husband, Kim Jong Un's former protector Jang Song Thaek, who was executed as an enemy of the state.

"I think her time is over and that her generation ... her time has passed ... she's untouchable as part of the family whereas Jang Song Thaek was an outsider. (However) as far as political influence it's basically over."

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