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05/16/2017 Special > Reviews

Title

Democracy Blossoms in South Korea

Trace of democracy and peculiarity of South Korean voting

김주현

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http://www.hanyang.ac.kr/surl/rELM

Contents
The beginning of the Republic of Korea dates back to 1948, when an indirect presidential election took place in July. On August 15 of 1948, President Rhee Syng-man proclaimed South Korea, and embarked on the road to democracy.
 
 
True democracy shines after 70 years
 
The First Republic of President Rhee turned into an autocratic regime, which then was replaced by a democratic interim government that was overthrown by military rule in less than a year. Inciting military rule in the Fourth Republic of 1979, President Park Chung-hee founded the Yushin Constitution to maintain a longer presidential term and take absolute control of the parliament. When Park was assassinated, President Chun Doo-hwan came into power through a coup d’état. In the following year, number of university students and civilians led vigorous protests against the authoritarian rule, and the government responded by massacring civilians in the city of Gwangju.
 
Students of Chonnam University are protesting President Chun's autocratic government.
(Photo courtesy of 7578bus Tistory)


Beginning with President Kim Young-sam in 1993 and Kim Dae-jung, to Roh Moo-hyun until 2008, the democratic party won the presidential election. After the suicide of late President Roh, President Lee Myung-bak set out to revitalize the weakening economy.
 
Lee’s successor, President Park Geun-hye took the baton and was inaugurated in 2013. Despite the weight of being the daughter of a former president and the first female president, she was impeached due to irresponsible and illegal tracks after a series of candlelight rallies by citizens. On May 9th of 2017, President Moon Jae-in was newly elected with 41.1% of polling rate.
 
 
Flower of democracy- Voting
 
After the protests in the earlier days of RoK, what overthrew the disappointing government was not a coup but a voting system. In order to increase the turnout rate and to guarantee suffrage opportunities to all electorates, South Korea affords various voting systems. In order to be listed as a valid electorate, a Korean national of 19 years of age or above should be registered as a resident in the district under the jurisdiction of a local government concerned as of the record date of the voters. The following is a list of methods mainly referred to:
 
  1. Original Ballot
National Election Commissions (NECs) prepare and send out voting guidance pamphlets that include information regarding voting- date and time of voting, location of a polling station, and more. Pamphlets are sent out to each household in two days after the confirmation day of the voters list. The voting begins from 6 AM and continues until 8 PM. After the officers at the polling station confirm individual’s identification and residential appropriateness, the voter may receive a ballot paper and head to the polling booth.
 
  1. Preliminary Ballot
If the electorate can’t make time on the original election day to vote from 6 AM to 8 PM, the voter can receive two days of chance to vote on different days. The most prestigious advantage of this preliminary ballot is that the voter does not need to consider his or her current location or residence. The electorate can take a vote, even if it is not the registered residence. The preliminary vote is implemented on the Thursday and Friday right before the original election date.
 
  1. Overseas Voting
There are two types of overseas voting: overseas absentee voting and overseas election. The former applies to those who are just absent in South Korea due to work, school, or more. The voter must have the residence registered and should apply for preliminary election at the South Korean embassy. On the other hand, the latter applies to those who do not have a residency permit or identification registered in South Korea, but who maintains South Korean citizenship. This requires the voter to request for election in the embassy with identifications such as passport.
 
"You, who voted, are beautiful."
(Photo courtesy of NamuWiki)


South Korea maintained a low turnout rate between the ages of 20 to 50 until this year, when young citizens were enraged by the monopoly of state affairs by Park Geun-hye. Together with the candlelight vigils, in showing the democratic will and the power of each vote, South Korea is stepping ahead to realize true democracy.


Kim Ju-hyun         kimster9421@hanyang.ac.kr
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