Human Rights,  International

British ambassador describes “election day” in “festive” Pyongyang

I’m sure the US State Department has its share of clunkers too, but what’s with the British FCO?

First there was Rowan “Fucking Jews” Laxton, a South Asia expert at the Foreign Office, who was arrested and suspended for expressing his true feelings toward the Hebrew people and the State of Israel while working out at a gym.

Now there’s a blog post by Peter Hughes, the UK’s ambassador to North Korea, painting an idyllic picture of life in Pyongyang on “election day” for the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly March 8.

There was a very festive atmosphere throughout the city. Many people were walking to or from the polling stations, or thronging the parks to have picnics or just stroll. Most of the ladies were dressed in the colourful traditional hanguk pokshik and the men in their best suits. Outside the central polling stations there were bands playing and people dancing and singing to entertain the queues of voters waiting patiently to select their representatives in the country’s unicameral legislature. The booths selling drinks and snacks were very popular with the crowds and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The list of successful candidates was published on Monday. There was a reported turn-out of over 99% of the voters and all the candidates, including Kim Jong Il, were elected with 100% approval.

Paul Waugh of The Evening Standard fisks it brilliantly.

After being challenged in the comments, Hughes concedes that there “were no opposition candidates: in fact there was only one person standing for each seat which is why all the candidates were elected with 100 approval; and there was a 99 turn out because the compulsory voting was strictly enforced.”

But, he insists, his post “was not intended as political commentary, rather it was an opportunity to show that Pyongyang is not an dark and evil place populated by demons, but a city inhabited by human beings who make the best of their lives in spite of the difficulties they face on a daily basis.”

Nobody argues otherwise. But if Pyongyang (and the rest of North Korea) are not populated by demons, they certainly are ruled by the closest thing in human form to them.

I wonder if Hughes has ever asked to visit one of North Korea’s infamous prison camps. Of course the North Korean officials would deny the existence of such camps, but it would at least put them on notice that Hughes isn’t a complete wuss.

On his next visit to Seoul, he might want to have a long chat with Shin Dong-hyuk to get an idea of how non-festive life can be, even on “election day,” in the Democratic Peoples’ Republic.

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