By HyunCheon Kim
Translated by SeungYoun Woo
Voter registration for overseas Koreans is now only 2 months away, in November. The next general election on April, 2012 will be the first test for overseas Korean voters. The 18 overseas Korean election commissioners have been dispatched to the American continent gathered to prepare for and discuss the first vote.
Kyung-Keun Kang, the senior member of the National Election Commission (NEC), Hoon-Kyo Jeong, the manager of the overseas election commission, and other staff held a seminar on the U.S. overseas election commission at the Inn at Harvard in Harvard Square from August 29th to 31st. The seminar was to inform people about the overall plan and guidelines about the overseas Korean election, and collect the opinions of local election commissioners.
The overseas election commissioners, dispatched to America, seem to strongly agree about the procedural problems of overseas voting in United Sates. “Currently, the National Assembly has not yet agreed on installing substitute or additional voting places; however, the opinions of the overseas election commissioners will be applied to a policy decision,” said Yang-Ho Seo, the Korean consulate general in Boston.
The senior member, Kang, invested more than 20 hours to attend the seminar by flying to Canada and driving to Boston in order to avoid Hurricane Irene. He experienced the inconvenience of long hours of travel by himself. Drawing from his own experience, Kang will make an effort to apply the inconvenience of long distance voting to the policy.
The Korean Congress Election commission has designated the overseas Korean Consulates or Embassies as the only voting places. So some Korean residents in the United States who live places where Korean consulates are not located in their area would have to travel up to 10 hours to cast a vote.
Jeong said, “We will propose that the Korean Congress allow for an increase in the number of voting places, but not allow for postal voting”
At the time voter registration for the overseas election starts in November, the NEC will decide the voting rights of permanent residents, depending on whether or not their resident registration in Korea has been cancelled. Korean permanent residents, whose resident registration in Korea has been cancelled, are classified as overseas Korean voters, who can have voting rights for proportional representation. Those who have not had their resident registration cancelled are classified as overseas absentees, and exercise voting rights for both proportional representation and local constituency.
The NEC requested that since guaranteed fundamental human rights are different in each country, current local overseas election commissioners should understand each country’s criminal law, and control elections without intruding on each country’s sovereignty. As it is the first time an overseas election has been held, the NEC also instructed those in charge to put great effort in preventing any violation of election law.
During the seminar, a voting paper dispenser was introduced to the members of the overseas election commission. They learned how to use the machine and observed how it issued voting papers . According to Jeong, the purpose of the dispenser is to decrease the fee for express mail to send out voting papers; when the machine is used, many millions of dollars will be saved.
Moreover, Jeong discussed some problems of the previous voting method, such as “inconvenience of voters who have a low Korean language level, and the ambiguity of whether a vote is valid when a paper is not marked clearly.” He emphasized the importance of the dispenser.
The NEC will finally decide to adopt the voting paper dispenser according to the election law that says, “voting papers can be distributed by voting paper dispenser.”The seminar in Boston was for the 18 out of 55 overseas election commissioners dispatched in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.
At the same time as this seminar, the seminar for the overseas Korean election commissioners from Asia opened in Tokyo, Japan, and a seminar for those commissioners from Europe, the Middle East and Africa opened in Madrid, Spain.
Moon-Bae Kim, an overseas commissioner from the Korean Consulate General in Chicago, commented that “the seminar was a good opportunity to devise the best preparation for the overseas Korean election commission, through sharing and communicating with each other about different kinds of ideas about problems and more effective methods of work.”
However, Kim added that since 13 states are under the Korean Consulate General in Chicago’s jurisdiction, “even though there are about 65,000 voters in Illinois, the turnout will not be high enough because the voting place is located more than 5 hours’ distance from many voters.”
ⓒ 보스톤코리아(http://www.bostonkorea.com), 무단전재 및 재배포 금지