South Korea: Government passes bill simplifying overseas voter registration | The Korea Times

Overseas voter registration for South Korean elections just got easier thanks to a revised bill passed by the National Assembly last week. Under the bill, the South Korean government will work to install polling stations overseas and to simplify the registration process, starting next year following the April legislative election. Polling stations will be installed in regions with Korean nationals numbering more than 40,000. In New York, that means two stations will be installed in addition to the existing Consulate General.

South Korea: Saenuri offers a concession on electoral map | Korea JoongAng Daily

The ruling party drafted a proposal to cut equal number of electoral districts in the rival provinces of Gyeongsang and Jeolla to resolve deadlocked negotiation over a new constituency map, the JoongAng Ilbo learned Sunday. The JoongAng Ilbo obtained an internal document from the ruling Saenuri Party on Sunday and confirmed the proposal with a senior party official. According to the plan, the Saenuri Party will propose to the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) that Gyeongsang, the Saenuri stronghold, and Jeolla, an NPAD stronghold, will each lose two seats. Eight seats in Gwangju Metropolitan City, an NPAD stronghold, will remain unchanged.

South Korea: Failed redistricting causes confusion for political newcomers | The Korea Times

Ruling and opposition parties failed to meet the legal deadline to redraw the electoral map Friday, causing trouble for political candidates planning to debut in next year’s general election. Talks on redrawing constituencies are likely to drag into next year due to the rival parties’ disagreements on whether to decrease the number of those elected under proportional representation. With four weeks before preliminary candidate registration on Dec. 15, potential newcomers may be put at a disadvantage in launching their campaigns, say critics. They are expected to have difficulty choosing their constituencies because they will not be sure where they should register for the election, scheduled for April 13, 2016.

South Korea: Electoral map talks may drag on into next year | The Korea Times

The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) resumed their negotiations Tuesday to redraw constituencies in preparation for the general election slated for April 13 next year. They previously planned to complete the talks by Friday, five months ahead of the election, following the collapse of their previous talks, but the deadline is likely to be extended further due to wide differences on how to redraw the electoral map. Some worry that their debates could drag on into next year. “They are not expected to reach an agreement by either the Nov. 13 deadline or anytime soon due to differing views,” said Bae Jong-chan, the chief director at political pollster Research and Research.

South Korea: Electoral map is being totally rewritten | Korea JoongAng Daily

The reform committee of the main opposition party has opened a political Pandora’s Box by recommending a wholesale reorganization of electoral districts and proportional representatives, a plan that would ultimately increase the number of seats in the National Assembly by nearly a fourth. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s (NPAD) reform committee, headed by Kim Sang-gon, a liberal icon in the education community, presented a plan on Sunday that would redraw the current electoral map. It is based on an earlier proposal by the National Election Commission. In October, the Constitutional Court ruled the current electoral constituency map unconstitutional, saying it resulted in unequal representation caused by population changes. The National Election Commission presented its plan in February and the National Assembly created a special committee in March to discuss the issue. The redistricting is supposed to be finalized by October.

South Korea: Vote counting broadcast live online | The Korea Times

The whole process of the by-elections, from voters entering polling stations to ballot-counting, was broadcast live online Wednesday. To improve transparency of the four by-elections in Seoul, Incheon, Seongnam and Gwangju, the National Election Commission (NEC) aired special programs live on its website, YouTube, Naver and Daum. The NEC said this was to earn people’s trust over the nation’s election system.

South Korea: Picture Taking at Polling Stations Becomes a National Fad | Korea Bizwire

The June 4 elections had widely been expected to be quiet and uneventful in the wake of the Sewol ferry incident three weeks ago. The elections were completed without any foul play or controversy. As many as 23,465,000 went to the booth out of 41,296,000 registered voters, with the final voting ratio of 56.8 percent. This is the second highest voting ratio among all local elections. Just like any other country going through elections these days, Korea is no exception in that people love to take “selfies” right after they cast their ballots and show it off on their social networking spaces. In the past, it was usually restricted to entertainers and other celebrities. But now more and more ordinary people are doing it, promoting themselves that they are proud voters. Korean voters are today allowed to take pictures of themselves in front of a polling station and publish them on the Internet. But the pictures must be in ways that show a simple fact that one has voted.

South Korea: Technology brings changes to voting | Korea Herald

Korea posted a record high early voter turnout in part due to technologies such as electronic voting, adopted at ballot stations nationwide. Various political agenda ― from the Sewol ferry sinking and education, to public welfare and security ― have driven mostly those in their 20s and 30s to vote in advance. But the record turnout of 11.5 percent during the two-day period last week was partly attributable to a connected system allowing more than 3,500 polling stations to rapidly cross-check voters’ identities with a centralized database. Given that the database stored information of eligible voters, constituents were able to quickly and comfortably cast their ballots anywhere by either showing identification cards or having their fingerprints scanned.

South Korea: Court acquits 45 people over UPP election fraud scandal | Yonhap News Agency

A Seoul court on Monday acquitted 45 people on charges of proxy voting in selecting a minor opposition party’s proportional candidates ahead of last year’s April parliamentary elections. With similar cases pending in the court, legal experts expect the ruling could affect the verdicts of some 400 other people who are standing trials in connection with the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) election fraud scandal. The scandal centers around allegations that votes were cast en masse through a single Internet Protocol (IP) address in the UPP’s primary for proportional representation seats that took place in March 2012. IP addresses, the online equivalent of a street address or a phone number, should be different for each voter. Multiple or proxy voting allegedly happened with offline ballots as well.

South Korea: Park Geun-hye, South Korean President-Elect, Calls for Reconciliation |

South Korea’s president-elect, Park Geun-hye, called for national reconciliationon Thursday and met with foreign envoys in Seoul, a day after she was elected the country’s first female leader in a close contest that reflected generational and regional divides and growing unease over North Korea’s military threat. Ms. Park, 60, the daughter of South Korea’s longest-ruling dictator, won 51.6 percent of the votes cast on Wednesday to choose a successor to President Lee Myung-bak, who was barred by law from seeking a second term. “I will reflect various opinions of the people, whether they have supported or opposed me,” Ms. Park said in a speech Thursday. She pledged “impartiality,” “national harmony” and “reconciliation,” saying she would bring people into her government “regardless of their regional background, gender and generation.”

South Korea: South Koreans vote in tight presidential election | Al Jazeera

South Koreans have started casting their votes in a potentially historic presidential election that could result in Asia’s fourth-largest economy getting its first female leader. Polling stations opened on Tuesday, with polls showing a tight race between ruling conservative party candidate Park Geun-Hye and her liberal rival from the main opposition party, Moon Jae-In. The booths were schedule to close at 6pm with a national holiday declared to allow maximum turnout among the country’s more than 40 million registered voters.

South Korea: Voter turnout to hover around 70 pct: election commission | Yonhap News

The voter turnout for this year’s president race is expected to hover around 70 percent, the country’s National Election Commission (NEC) said Tuesday. The prediction by the state election watchdog comes a day before people cast their votes to pick the country’s next chief executive and is based on a nationwide poll it commissioned earlier in the month. The survey of 1,500 people by local pollster Korea Research Center showed 79.9 percent claiming they will definitely vote.

South Korea: Park Geun-hye wins South Korea’s presidential election | The Washington Post

Park Geun-hye spent part of her childhood in South Korea’s presidential palace, raised by an autocratic father who seized power in a military coup 51 years ago. She returns now as the democratically elected president of a nation concerned about its slowing economy and mounting social problems. With her narrow victory in Wednesday’s election, Park, 60, becomes an unlikely leader: She’s the first female president in a nation dominated by men, and she’s a conservative selected by voters to address their largely left-leaning wishes, including greater engagement with North Korea and a major expansion of government welfare spending.

South Korea: Absentee ballots to count in South Korean election for first time | Asahi Shimbun

South Korea’s Dec. 19 presidential election will make history as the first to accept absentee ballots from voters living in Japan, including many long-term ethnic Korean residents denied a vote in Japanese elections. On Dec. 5 the South Korean Embassy opened its doors to voters, admitting them to a makeshift polling station inside. “Fill out ballots here,” said signs in Korean and Japanese affixed to a row of booths. After verifying voters’ identification, embassy staff explained what to do. “This is the first time I have ever voted in my life. My hands were shaking,” said 85-year-old Rhee Sang-bae, 85, whose eyes moistened as he spoke. Rhee had traveled by bus and train from Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture.

South Korea: Absentee voting begins amid uncertainty over North Korean rocket launch | Yonhap News

Absentee voting for South Korea’s presidential election kicked off Thursday, with each competing camp claiming that the uncertainty surrounding North Korea’s long-range rocket launch will sway voters to their side. With the main election just six days away, voting began at 6 a.m. at polling stations nationwide. A record 1.09 million voters have registered to cast their ballots during the two-day absentee voting period that ends at 4 p.m. Friday, the National Election Commission said. The vote comes a day after North Korea launched a three-stage long-range rocket in defiance of international warnings and successfully put a satellite into orbit.

South Korea: Impact on South Korean election unclear |

When North Korea revealed its plans to launch a rocket this month, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak accused Pyongyang of trying to interfere in his country’s December 19 presidential election. But it is not clear how Wednesday’s apparently successful launch will affect the result of the poll, or the victor’s policy towards North Korea. The two leading contenders, Park Geun-hye of Mr Lee’s conservative New Frontier party, and Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic United party, have both vowed to pursue fresh negotiations with North Korea if elected. While each condemned the rocket launch as a threat to international security, neither gave any indication of reduced willingness to push for talks aimed at economic co-operation and eventual reunification.

South Korea: Elections driven by voters’ desire for reform | Guardian Weekly

When the popular independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo pulled out of South Korea’s presidential contest last month, he completely changed the odds in a race that might have marked a new phase in the country’s history. Now only two candidates are still in the running, representing the main conservative and progressive camps, which have been squabbling over power since the end of the dictatorship in the late 1980s. On the right is Park Geun-hye, 60, standing for the ruling New Frontier party, and on the centre-left Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United party.

South Korea: Presidential campaign kicks off in South Korea | Al Jazeera

South Korea’s two main presidential hopefuls are running neck and neck with the election barely a month away, the latest polls showed after a popular independent candidate bowed out of the race. The latest survey was released as the candidates, including the daughter of former military ruler Park Chung-hee, officially begin campaigning on Tuesday. Election is set on December 19.

South Korea: Divided progressive party’s online leadership election marred by server error | Korea Times

The ongoing leadership election of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) has been suspended due to errors in its server for online voting, party officials said Wednesday, amplifying uncertainties for the left-wing party beleaguered by an escalating factional conflict over alleged primary rigging earlier this year. The minor party with 13 seats in the 300-member National Assembly is set to elect its new leadership this week after a faction of alleged pro-North Korean forces lost power after it was found to be involved in the rigging of the party’s proportional representative primary for the April general election. … According to party officials, the server for online voting stopped at around midnight due to unidentified causes, resulting in a loss of the data collected since Monday. “Due to server problems, part of the voting results are missing and it is hard to restore them,” said an official of the party’s reformist emergency committee.

South Korea: Ruling party wins polls amid North Korea tension |

South Korea’s ruling party claimed a majority Thursday in a parliamentary vote that centered on domestic issues but had implications for Seoul’s relationship with the North. President Lee Myung-bak’s conservative Saenuri Party was expected to win at least 152 seats while his liberal rivals were set to claim 140 in the race for 300 parliamentary seats, the National Election Commission said with 1 percent of ballots left uncounted. South Koreans went to the polls a day earlier. Ties between the two Koreas plummeted during Lee’s tenure, with two attacks Seoul blames on Pyongyang killing 50 South Koreans in 2010. North Korea also conducted a long-range rocket launch and tested a nuclear device in 2009.

South Korea: Illegal campaign activities, legal actions mar South Korea general elections | Korea Herald

Illegal election campaign activities continued to plague the run up to Wednesday’s general election. According to the National Election Commission, the number of Public Official Election Act violations stood at 1,239 on Tuesday. Although the figure was lower than during the 2008 general election, the number of more serious offences such as slander increased significantly. The election watchdog’s figures show that the number of cases of slander and spreading falsehoods increased 31 percent from four years ago. Areas with tight races between candidates such as South Gyeongsang Province saw increases in illegal campaign activities. According to the election commission for the region, 110 violations were filed as of midday Tuesday. In comparison, the figure came in at 85 in 2008. Incheon also suffered from a spike in irregular campaign activities.

South Korea: Voting continues in crucial parliamentary elections | Yonhap News

Voters flocked to polling stations Wednesday in tightly contested general elections that could strip President Lee Myung-bak’s ruling party of its control of parliament and set a crucial tone for December’s vote to pick his successor. The quadrennial poll is to elect a new 300-member National Assembly, but it takes on extra significance as the results are likely to affect the presidential election just eight months away. It is the first time in 20 years the two big elections take place in the same year. The National Assembly will be comprised of 246 directly contested seats and 56 proportional representation seats to be allocated to parties according to the total numbers of votes they receive. Each voter is asked to cast two ballots, one for a candidate and the other for a party.

South Korea: High squid prices test South Korea’s politicians | Financial Times

As he sells his squid at the Jagalchi fish market in the southern port of Busan, Chang Ho-bin is happy to explain why he will be voting against South Korea’s ruling party in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections. The 33-year-old fishmonger says the government has promoted policies that have helped big companies such as Samsung but driven up living costs for ordinary consumers who cannot afford to buy his squid, which costs Won45,000 ($40) a box, more than double its price from two years ago. “President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling conservatives did not manage the economy properly,” he grumbles as a woman nearby returns an escaping red octopus to its bucket. “They supported big conglomerates but forgot small business. Prices have got too high for people on lower incomes.”

South Korea: Opposition admits tight election contest | AFP

South Korea’s main opposition party said Monday its candidates, who had been forecast an easy victory, now faced a tight battle with conservatives in the run-up to this week’s general election. The centre-left Democratic United Party (DUP) had been tipped for an easy win in polls on Wednesday, a key test of sentiment before a presidential vote in December, but DUP leader Han Myeong-Sook admits the race is neck-and-neck. “We are now in an emergency situation and seized with a sense of crisis,” Han told reporters. A higher voter turnout would benefit opposition candidates who are more popular among younger voters, the DUP leader said. “If you cast ballots, the people will win. If not, the administration of (President) Lee Myung-Bak will win,” Han said.

South Korea: Twitter generation may give liberals upset win | euronews

South Korea’s liberal opposition, bolstered by the under-40s and power of social media, could spring a surprise win in this week’s parliamentary elections despite opinion polls that show it tied with the ruling conservatives. Experts say traditional pollsters base their projections on owners of fixed telephone lines, whereas people in their 20s and 30s, who form 37 percent of the voting population in the world’s most wired country, rarely use them. The young, more likely to carry a Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone in their pockets, are mostly liberal and their views are expressed and spread online, often by their smartphones.

South Korea: Ruling Party Risks Parliament Election Loss | Businessweek

South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s ruling party faces losing control of parliament next week to an opposition that vows to increase welfare spending, revisit a U.S. trade deal and improve ties with North Korea. The New Frontier Party is struggling to overcome bribery and illegal surveillance scandals ahead of April 11’s National Assembly elections that may forecast the December presidential race. The opposition Democratic United Party has pledged to create 3.3 million jobs and may get a boost from younger voters who face an unemployment rate almost twice the national average. Asia’s fourth-largest economy has had slower growth and higher inflation under Lee than his predecessor, contributing to a 50 percent drop in his popularity. Relations have also worsened with North Korea, who plans to fire a long-range rocket between April 12 and 16 would scuttle a food aid agreement with the Obama administration. “An opposition victory will hasten Lee’s position as a lame duck,” said Lee Nae Young, a political science professor at Korea University in Seoul. “Regardless of who wins, we could see many welfare policies enacted before Lee’s term ends, as parties try to improve the odds for December.”

South Korea: North Korean refugee stands for parliament in the South | Reuters

By the time Pyongyang’s rubber stamp parliament meets on April 13 to anoint Kim Jong-un as the third of his line to rule the impoverished state, 53-year old Cho Myung-chul will likely have become the first North Korean to win a free election. The rub is that Cho, once part of North Korea’s elite who defected in 1994 during the 17-year rule of Kim Jong-il, is standing in parliamentary elections in South Korea April 11 – the first defector to do so. “When I first came to Seoul I was filled with rage and pure hatred for Kim Jong-il’s government,” Cho told Reuters in a cafe in the heart of Seoul’s bustling commercial centre. Cho studied at and later joined the faculty of Kim Il Sung University, named after the founder of North Korea and reserved for regime loyalists.

South Korea: Seoul to keep North Korean defectors away from polling stations | Asia One

The National Election Commission plans to prevent North Korean defectors from entering South Korean diplomatic missions in China during the overseas voting period for the general elections. The overseas voting period for the April 11 general elections runs from March 28 to April 2, and the ballots are open to overseas Koreans with Korean nationality, and absentees such as those studying or working abroad. According to reports, the National Election Commission is reviewing plans to collaborate with the Chinese police force to prevent North Korean defectors from entering South Korean diplomatic missions, where the voting will take place, by pretending to be South Korean citizens.

South Korea: Cyber Attacks Hit South Korean Election Commission, Candidate | The Chosun Ilbo

The websites of the National Election Commission and the pan-opposition candidate for Seoul mayoral by-election, Park Won-soon, were paralyzed by cyber attacks on Wednesday morning as voters went to the polls. The onslaught was a so-called distributed denial-of-service attack whereby hackers effectively overload certain websites by activating masses of zombie computers that have been infected with a virus.

“A DDoS attack interrupted access to the commission’s website from 6:15 a.m. to 8:32 a.m.,” an official with the election watchdog said. “We took an emergency measure with a DDoS defense system, but to no avail. So we diverted web traffic to a cybershelter provided by KT.”

South Korea: Election watchdog’s website attacked by DDoS | Korea Herald

Police are investigating what and who caused the state election watchdog’s website to crash for about two hours on Wednesday morning, keeping in mind the possibility of a so-called “distributed-denial-of-service” attack, officials said. The website of the National Election Commission crashed between 6:15 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. when many voters visited it to locate polling stations where they could cast their ballots for the by-elections for Seoul mayor.

Investigators suspect that the website crashed due to a “DDoS” cyber attack. The attacks swamp selected websites with massive traffic, using virus-infected “zombie computers” to launch simultaneous access to them. “Due to what appears to be a DDoS attack, problems intermittently occurred on the website. We are now trying to verify where the attack originated,” a government official said, declining to be named.