South Korean Voters Call for Longer Poll Hours

With less than three months left until the presidential election, young South Korean voters are calling for longer poll hours, clashing with the ruling conservative party.

The South Korean poll generally ends at 6pm and lots of young workers, working from 9 to 6 and working under strict corporate culture, have trouble going to the poll. It is worse for six million contract workers whose employment status is always unstable.

A bill pushing for longer poll hours is already pending in the National Assembly, but for no specific reason it has been postponed again and again. One of the most influential political bloggers, IamPeter, after analyzing the previous voting patterns, demonstrated [ko] how a small change in poll hours will greatly enhance citizen's participation.


Posted by Twitter User @mizry, in May 2011 election. This new concept of “Vote Confirmation Photo” whiere young South Koreans tweet evidence of voting (such as their hand holding the ballot confirmation paper or their face in front of the voting location sign) became so popular that it influenced the election result.

일반적인 투표는 오후 6시로 되어 있습니다. 그러나 한국 이외의 나라는 대부분 오후 8시까지 투표할 수 있도록 배려하고 있습니다.[…] 대한민국 선거 대부분이 오후 12시를 기점으로 투표율이 올라갑니다. 그러다 오후 3시부터 4시를 넘어 오후 5시까지 투표율이 가파르게 상승합니다. 이것은 유권자 대부분이 오후에 그것도 투표 마감 전에 몰리는 경향으로 볼 수 있습니다. […]해외 주요국가는 공휴일로 지정했으면 근무하는 회사가 그리 많지 않습니다.[…] 그러나 한국은 임시공휴일이라고 해도 많은 회사들이 선거날 정상 출근하는 일이 많습니다.

In general cases in South Korea, the ballot ends at 6 pm. However, other foreign countries enable people to cast votes till 8 pm.[…] In most cases, the voting rate starts spiking up starting from noon. After 3pm and 4pm, the rating makes a sharp rise and the trend continues till 5 pm. (without making a downturn in the end). In other major foreign countries, once the government designates the election day as holiday, no company works that day. However, in South Korea, most of companies work under the same working schedule after the day became a holiday.

South Korea's notoriously strict corporate culture has successfully dampened contract workers’ participation in the election, since even for full-time workers, voting can become quote a burdensome task once the company decides to work as usual. Twitter user @kennedian3 pointed this out[ko]:

18대 총선에 불참한 비정규직 노동자들의 64.1%가 “참여가 불가능한 상황”을 기권의 이유로 꼽았다고 한다. 이들이 경제적 약자인 것도 서러운데 정치적 약자까지 되게 해서는 안 된다. 투표시간 연장!

64.1 percent of contract workers who could not cast their votes in the 18th presidential election answered it was due to “their (working) environment makes it nearly impossible to go to ballot”. Our economic system has already bullied them. We cannot let the political system also turn against them and treat them unfairly. We must have longer ballot hours.

Net users filed an online petition [ko] urging the government and the National Election Commission to pass the pending proposal. It has gathered 30 thousand signatures so far.

Many blamed the ruling conservative Saenuri Party for blocking the bill. Generally, senior citizens consistently vote for Saenuri, while younger voters prefer progressive candidates. This tweet [ko] by @__hope_ has been retweeted more than 410 times.

새누리당이 가장 무서워하는 것은 안철수도 문재인도 아니다. 바로 투표장으로 가는 당신이다[…]

What Saenuri fears most is neither Ahn Chul-Soo or Moon Jae-in [note: names of candidates from opposing sides]. It is YOU who go to poll.

@gigodido tweeted [ko]:

투표시간 연장에 반대하는 당이 여당이어도 괜찮은 나라. 독재자의 딸이 독재 30년후에 다시 대권에 나와도 강력한 대선후보가 되는 나라. 대한민국. 아. 슬퍼.

How sad South Korea's political landscape is. One who is opposing longer ballot hours is none other than the major ruling party. And one of the strong presidential candiates is none other than the dictator's daughter who surfaced in the presidential election after 30 years of (her father's) tyranny.

@mindgood wrote [ko]:

참정권은 귀족에서 평민, 남성에서 여성으로 당대의 사회적 약자로 확대해왔고 오늘날 사회적 약자는 당연히 비정규직. 그럼에도 선관위가 투표시간 연장을 반대한다면 비정규직을 국민으로 인정하지 않겠다는 것 입니다.

The voting rights have been expanded from aristocrats to plebeians, from male to female and to the socially disadvantaged individuals. If the election commission stands against longer ballot hours, it is sending a signal that they will not treat these disadvantaged contract workers as members of our society.

and mocked [ko] the election commission's lame excuse:

국민들이 밤새워 개표를 지켜보느라고 건강을 해칠까 봐 투표시간 연장을 반대한다는 선관위. 그렇다면 보건복지부와 통합하는 것이 좋을 것 같네요.

The election commission said they are against longer ballot hours because they are concerned about the peoples’ health since they will be not be sleeping till late night as they watch the election result. If that is true, they'd better be merging themselves with the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

@mettayoon commented [ko]:

투표시간 늘리면 사회적 비용이 크게 든다는 새누리당의 주장, 지난 4년 대통령 하나 잘못 뽑아서 든 국가적인 손해에 비하겠습니까? […]

The Saenuri party claims that the change will cause huge ‘social cost’. Would it be that big an amount compared to the national loss we had by electing the wrong president four years ago? [note: The current president is still highly unpopular, especially among young voters]

Former lawmaker, now an attorney and columnist @your_rights wrote it is never too late [ko] for new change, with making a sports reference.

투표시간 연장 문제에 대한 새누리당의 논리는 “경기 중 룰을 바꿀 수 없다”입니다. 지금 투표가 시작됐나요? 마치 심판이 편파판정으로 인저리타임을 늘려주는 것으로 생각하는 꼴.

The Saenuri party says that “we cannot change the rule while the match is going on”. Have we already started the voting yet? They are treating this as some sort of unfair referee dragging the time by having more ‘injury time’.


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