NEC chair Noh Jeong-hee suggests she will not resign
The embattled chief of the National Election Commission (NEC) indicated Thursday she would not bow to calls for her resignation, despite a joint statement by regional election oversight committees that signaled their lack of confidence in the NEC's management of the 20th presidential election.
At a morning meeting of seven commission members at the NEC’s headquarters in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi, Chairwoman Noh Jeong-hee accepted the resignation of the commission’s secretary general, Kim Se-hwan, over public criticism of the body’s handling of ballots cast during the March 4 to 5 early voting period and by those in Covid-19 isolation.
Noh did not offer to step down from her post.
One attendee of the meeting, who spoke to Yonhap on condition of anonymity, said Noh told commission members that she “feels responsible for the current situation that the NEC finds itself in” and said “she would manage elections better in the future,” suggesting the chairwoman intends to stay on despite mounting pressure to resign.
Through a message sent out via the commission’s internal network on Thursday, Noh also said, “I accept and sympathize with the criticism that I was complacent about election management.
"But with 76 days left before regional government elections, now is the time to make swift and accurate preparations.”
Noh faced fresh questions about her leadership on Thursday in a joint statement by 17 regional election commissions, who called on the chairwoman to “swiftly deal with Kim’s resignation, apologize and consider her position in light of the current situation and the need to recover public confidence.”
The statement added that “it is necessary to immediately shake up the leadership responsible for the poor management of the presidential election in order to ensure stability and successful management of local elections.”
The NEC has come under intense scrutiny and criticism for its management of ballots during the early voting period and by voters in Covid-19 isolation, with photos circulated by the press and social media showing ballots collected and delivered to counting centers in plastic bags, cardboard boxes and other unofficial containers, sometimes via poorly secured storage locations.
The perceived poor handling of ballots has led to unsubstantiated claims of election rigging, an allegation the NEC has flatly rejected but nevertheless led a mob of right-wing protesters to hinder the delivery of a ballot box to one counting center in Bupyeong District, Incheon, on the night of the election after voting ended.
Critics say the current composition of the NEC is partially to blame for distrust in the agency.
“Six of the remaining seven members of the NEC were appointed by the president [Moon Jae-in] or appointed by Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su,” said Professor Kim Hyung-jun of political science and diplomacy at Myongji University. “Distrust of the NEC soared as the commission gave up its status as a politically-neutral agency.”
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]