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Engaging the Diaspora: Examining the Significance of Overseas Voting in Hong Kong for Korea's 22nd National Assembly Elections

Ban Kyungmin, an exchange student at Hong Kong Baptist University, came to the Korean consulate with a friend on the first day of the election to vote. 

"I've always participated since I had the right to vote. I knew that I could vote overseas, so I applied in advance to participate in the overseas elections,” she said.

South Korea is holding parliamentary elections on April 10th. Under the overseas election system, which was introduced after the amendment of the Public Offices Election Act in 2009, the Korean Central Election Commission announced that it would set up overseas voting stations in 178 diplomatic missions around the world, so Koreans living in Hong Kong will be able to vote at the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Hong Kong from March 27 to April 1 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on each day.  

The Hong Kong Korean Association and other Korean student organizations in all Hong Kong universities and colleges have been eagerly anticipating the event and have been promoting it through their respective online communities and social media.

Election officials are at the entrance to guide the election.Election officials are at the entrance to guide the election.

“I think it's an opportunity for Koreans abroad to feel a sense of belonging to Korea and to unite with other Koreans living abroad,"  Ban Kyung-min added.

Kyungmin Ban and her friend make a "vote-proof pose".

The Korean Central Election Commission is responsible for preventing and cracking down on election crimes and supervising election administration.

The Overseas Election Commission comprises two members nominated by the NEC, one nominated by each of the political parties that form a bargaining group in the National Assembly, and one nominated by the head of the diplomatic mission. 

Overseas missions and the Election Commission have recruited various personnel, including poll guides and election officials. 

Choi Seokgyun, a student at the City University of Hong Kong has volunteered as an election assistant. "I saw the recruitment notice posted by the Hong Kong Korean General Student Association, which covers six universities in Hong Kong,” he said. 

“I applied as a volunteer for a unique experience uncommon for Koreans. I am in charge of assisting and guiding voters during the six-day election,” he added.

During the week of the election, the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Hong Kong was packed with Koreans waiting to cast their ballots. Voter turnout among overseas Koreans, who were among the first to cast their ballots, is expected to be the highest ever for a general election.

On April 2, the Korean National Election Commission announced that overseas voter turnout for the 22nd National Assembly election was 62.8 percent, the highest ever for a parliamentary election. The overseas voting was held from March 27 to 1 at 220 overseas polling stations in 178 diplomatic missions in 115 countries around the world. Of the 147,989 overseas voters who applied to vote overseas for the National Assembly election, 92,923 participated. 

Overseas elections saw their inception in 2012 during the 19th National Assembly, witnessing the highest turnout among overseas voters in prior elections, namely 45.7% in 2012, 41.4% in 2016, and 23.8% in 2020 for the 19th, 20th, and 21st National Assemblies, respectively.

While this is lower than the 66 percent voter turnout in the last 21 general elections in Korea, it is expected to be the highest overseas voter turnout since the 19th general election, when overseas voting was first introduced.

    Polling station sign at the consulate general of the Republic of Korea

 "It's great to see friends and acquaintances, and many other Hong Kong-based people participating in the election,” he said. 

“When I see people traveling from far away to the consulate to vote and people working for the election, I feel proud to be part of the team working for the citizen’s right to vote," Choi Seokgyun added. 

"To participate in the election, you need to register as an overseas absentee or overseas voter on the Korean Embassy's website one month in advance, depending on whether you are a Korean resident or not. However, many people come to the polling station without knowing this. The embassy and the Election Commission should publicize this application process,” Choi Seokgyun said.

Korean communities all around the world, including the Hong Kong Korean Association, have been calling for a proportional representation of overseas Koreans to represent their rights and needs. 

Overseas Korean voters often do not receive significant attention due to comparatively low voter turnout, despite the presence of a substantial overseas Korean population. One of the contributing factors to this low turnout is the logistical challenges faced by overseas Koreans, mostly those residing in countries with vast land masses such as the United States, China, and Japan. The considerable distances involved in reaching the nearest embassy or consulate can act as a deterrent, making it difficult for overseas Koreans to participate in elections.

“To increase the interest of overseas Koreans in the elections, the overseas Korean missions and the Overseas Korean Affairs Office could organize and publicize the overseas Korean sector manifestos released by political parties. I think Hong Kong's small size makes it easier to participate in elections. but In countries with large land masses, it is difficult to travel for elections, so I think postal or electronic voting should be an exception in such cases," Professor Jae Min Shim, a Social Science at Hong Kong Baptist University said.

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.


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