New rules, penalties declared for campaigns

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New rules, penalties declared for campaigns

The prosecution outlined new punishments for campaign offenses, promising to make the upcoming general and presidential elections “festivals of cleanliness.”

A candidate who distributes more than 500,000 won ($435) in gifts to voters will be arrested, and even gifts worth 300,000 won will lead to prosecution and possible imprisonment.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office held a nationwide meeting of public security prosecutors yesterday and announced detailed new rules for candidates to follow, particularly in cyberspace.

“Turning two major elections this year into festivities of cleanness and order is what the public wishes to see and what the prosecution is called to do,” Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae told the meeting of 70 director-level public security prosecutors, who gathered from 58 regional prosecutors’ offices.

According to the new guidelines, the prosecution will also arrest a candidate or campaign staffer if they post a message defaming a rival candidate at least 30 times on the Internet. Repeat messages are counted.

Arrests will also be made of people on a campaign defaming a candidate by sending out more than 500 text messages on mobile phones or distributing more than 500 leaflets.

The prosecution also warned against viral marketing campaigns, negative or positive, violating the guidelines.

The prosecution said if someone defaces or destroys three or more large campaign placards or 10 or more leaflets, it will prosecute and seek imprisonment of the violator. If someone defaces a candidate’s promotional material with malicious messages, he or she will be subject to arrest.

On voting day itself, if a person is caught voting more than once, including voting under someone else’s name or with a forged identification card, he or she will be arrested, it said. The prosecution also said it will sternly deal with illegal votes by Koreans overseas.

Expatriate Koreans will be allowed to vote for the first time in the April general election and the December presidential election.

The prosecution said it will pay special attention to intervention in overseas voting by pro-North Korean groups overseas. It plans to create an investigative unit at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office that will exclusively deal with overseas voters.

As of last July, 2.8 million Koreans were living overseas, including 1.15 million with permanent residency overseas and 1.65 million staying for shorter periods. Of them, 2.24 million people are aged 19 or older and eligible to vote.

The registration process for voting in the upcoming general election began last Nov. 13 and will continue until Feb. 11.

Meanwhile, as of yesterday, 90 days before the 19th general election, a total of 150 people have been charged with violating election law. That is nearly three times as many as the 50 caught 90 days before the 18th general election in 2008.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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