Overseas voting opens for registered voters abroad
Overseas voting for the 20th presidential election opened on Wednesday, with a quarter million Korean citizens who registered in advance now able to cast their ballots at polling stations set up at the country's consulates across the globe.
Voting by overseas citizens is scheduled to run until Monday, with eligible voters residing abroad who have registered in advance being able to vote in 177 consulates and 219 polling stations set up across 115 countries.
Overseas voting in Ukraine is suspended, however, due to the Foreign Ministry’s decision to relocate the country's Korean embassy from Kyiv to Lviv amid escalating armed conflict in the region.
A total of 226,162 overseas citizens are registered to vote, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).
In the United States, home to the largest Korean diaspora in the world, polling stations have been set up at Korean consulates in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Atlanta to serve 53,73 overseas citizens, including permanent residents and those on shorter term visas, who have registered to vote in the presidential election.
That figure represents only a fraction of approximately 880,000 eligible Korean voters in the United States, according to Korea’s ambassador to the United States, Lee Soo-hyuck, who urged all eligible voters to take part.
“It is an honor to exercise one's right in an event to elect someone who will decide the fate of the country,” Lee said.
Overseas voting registrations in the United States in this year’s election are down 22.2 percent compared to the 68,224 registered overseas Korean voters in the United States during the 19th presidential election, 71 percent of whom actually cast a ballot.
In Canada, also home to sizeable Korean communities in major urban areas such as Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa, a total of 12,781 Korean citizens registered to vote at four consulates and two additional polling stations.
This is also down from the 15,463 overseas citizens in Canada who registered to vote in the last presidential election.
According to the NEC, 1,356 overseas citizens who registered for this year’s election are Canadian permanent residents, while 11,425 are temporarily residing in the country.
In accordance with regulations to ensure safe voting amid the Covid-19 pandemic, polling stations in Canada restricted the number of people allowed to enter at the same time and provided anti-virus supplies, such as hand sanitizer and plastic gloves.
Media coverage by Yonhap reported voters in the United States and Canada traveling significant distances to the polling station nearest to them when voting opened at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
The 20th presidential election is the first time in five years that overseas voters will be able to cast their ballot.
Although overseas citizens are normally able to cast ballots for National Assembly elections as well, overseas voting was not available during the last parliamentary election, which took place in April 2020, just as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the world.
Early voting will be held nationwide on March 4 and 5 and does not require prior registration.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]