Overseas Koreans signed-up to vote turn out in droves

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Overseas Koreans signed-up to vote turn out in droves

More than 70 percent of Koreans overseas who have registered to cast ballots for the first time in the upcoming presidential election turned out to vote, according to the election commission yesterday.

During the voting period from Dec. 5 to 10, a total of 158,235 Koreans voted at ballot boxes set up in 164 diplomatic posts in 110 countries, the National Election Commission said in a statement.

They accounted for 71.2 percent of 222,389 Koreans overseas who registered to vote.

The actual voting kicked off in Auckland, New Zealand, on Dec. 5 and ended in Honolulu, Hawaii, yesterday at noon, Korean time.

There are 2.23 million Koreans overseas eligible to vote, meaning 7.1 percent of them voted.

The 71.2 percent turnout is much higher than the outcome for the April 11 legislative elections, when only 45.7 percent, or 56,456 overseas Koreans, registered to vote actually turned out to cast ballots.

The April legislative elections was the first time overseas Koreans were given the right to cast ballots after revisions were made to the election law in 2009.

This is the first time they voted in the presidential election.

By continent, the vote rate by registered Koreans in Europe was the highest at 77.2 percent, followed by the Americas at 72.9 percent, Africa at 70.8 percent and Asia at 69 percent with Middle East, in particular, at 67.9 percent.

Among diplomatic posts, the most votes came from the Korean Embassy in Japan with 9,632, while the least votes came from the Korean Embassy in Croatia with 27 overseas Koreans. The ballot boxes will be flown to Korea before Sunday and will be opened after voting in Korea ends at 6 p.m. on Dec. 19, next Wednesday.

“The voter turnout was much higher than expected,” said an official from the election commission. “It is because this is the first presidential election for overseas Koreans and also, more overseas Koreans seem to be interested in it because of the election structure of having a conservative competing against a liberal.”

With the neck-and-neck competition, presidential candidates Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the opposition Democratic United Party have kept a keen eye on the overseas Korean election outcome as it could be one of the contributing factors to the election.

“Many overseas Koreans want their home country to be more stable, thus many have hope for candidate Park,” said Won Yoo-chul from the Saenuri Party. “Young voters overseas who are rational conservatives, who had supported Ahn, have turned their hearts to Park after independent Ahn dropped out of the race.”

Rhee Mok-hee, policy planner for Moon’s camp, meanwhile, said, “The high voter turnout benefits us more.”

“What led voters to polling stations could have been their desperate hope for a change in the administration.”

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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