Bill passed in case of early presidential poll

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Bill passed in case of early presidential poll

The National Assembly Thursday passed a bill enabling Korean nationals overseas to cast votes in an early presidential election, which could take place as soon as May depending on the timing of the Constitutional Court’s ruling on President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment.

On the last day of an extra session that began last month, a revision to the Public Official Election Act allowing overseas Koreans to vote in an early presidential election was overwhelmingly passed 180 to 12 out of 207 lawmakers who voted. 15 abstained.

The passage came as the Constitutional Court deliberates a ruling in Park’s impeachment trial, which is expected before March 13, when acting chief Justice Lee Jung-mi is scheduled to retire.

If Park is removed from office, an election must be held within 60 days of the ruling. At least six out of the eight justices now on the bench would have to rule in favor of the motion to remove Park, which would be a first for South Korea.

With the bill’s passage, an estimated 2 million Koreans overseas will be able to cast votes in an early election.

Almost eight out of 10 Koreans, or 79 percent, said the court should uphold the motion to remove Park, while 15 percent opposed it, according to a poll conducted by Gallup Korea last month. 5 percent deferred.

Meanwhile, lawmakers failed to agree on the issue of lowering the voting age to 18 from the current 19.

While politicians had wide discussions on the merits of such a revision to the election act during the February session, the proposal, supported by the liberal opposition and opposed by the ruling Liberty Korea Party, did not pass a parliamentary committee to be voted on the floor.

The Assembly will kick off another extra session today, which will run through April 1.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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