Sunday, March 18, 2012

First overseas voting: low participation

Less than six percent of Korean residents overseas have registered to take part in the nation’s first overseas voting ahead of the April 11 National Assembly elections.

The National Election Commission (NEC) said Sunday 123,571 people, or 5.57 percent of the 2.23 million eligible, had completed their registration by the deadline of Feb. 11.

With overseas voting is set to take place from March 28 to April 2 at 158 Korean overseas missions, analysts say they expect voter turnout to be even lower as those registered must visit Korean missions again to vote. Voting by mail is not allowed, the NEC said.

The Korean mission in Shanghai attracted the highest registration with 6,505 people, while the one in Croatia ranked the lowest with just 24.

An apparent lack of interest in Korean politics and the inconvenience of registering are to blame for the lukewarm participation, analysts said.

For registration and to vote, Korean expatriates must visit Korean missions abroad. Seoul does not have missions in 67 countries.

“Expatriates don’t want to spend their time and money to vote, which is expected to make few changes to their lives,” said Ko Seon-kyo, professor at the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy.

A law enacted in 2009 enabled overseas Koreans to cast ballots in both parliamentary and presidential elections. The country’s presidential election will take place on Dec. 19.

The NEC said it will cooperate with the concerned government bodies to increase people’s attention on voting ahead of the presidential poll.

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