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Korean Politicians Wooing Korean Americans

Posted: Jun 11, 2012

A political party in South Korea is proposing a change to the election law, in an effort to win Korean American votes for their Korean presidential candidate this December, the Korea Times reports. The Saenuri Party, the current ruling party in Korea, last week announced their plan to amend the Public Official Election Act to make it easier for overseas Koreans to vote in their country’s elections.

The amendment would allow expatriates in the United States to register for overseas voting without visiting an official residence. It would also extend the voter registration period from three months to one year. Finally, if the general election and presidential election are held in the same year, the amendment would allow voters who registered for the first election to participate in the second one without going through the registration process again.

There are two types of Korean Americans who are eligible to vote in the Korean presidential election: absentee voters, who are staying abroad but have residency in Korea, and expatriates, who are permanent U.S. residents with green cards. Absentee voters are predominantly international students who tend to be progressive; expatriates are usually older and more conservative.

The new amendment would make it easier for expatriates to register to vote, so it is perceived as a political tool by the conservative Saenuri Party to attract more votes in their favor.

The amendment also shows that Korean Americans are increasingly recognized as an important voter group. The number of Korean Americans eligible to vote now exceeds 2 million. A turnout of only 20 percent would amount to 450,000 votes, which could have a decisive impact on the election results.

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