Eligible Overseas Citizens in 2016
South Koreans who live overseas have become eligible to participate in domestic parliamentary and presidential elections after related legislation was passed by the National Assembly in 2009. According to the National Election Commission (NEC), 154,217 or 7.8% of some 1.98 million eligible overseas citizens were able to register to cast votes in 2016.
National Election Commission’s Regulation
Based on the NEC’s regulation, the overseas citizens who have Korean Citizenship and who reside or stay outside the country are eligible voters. In order to register to cast the votes, it can be done both in-person at any Korean consulate, or online and through mail. When they are ready to cast votes after registration, they are required to bring a valid form of photo identification such as passport or a resident registration card and can visit and cast their votes at a nearby polling station.
The Number of Overseas Voters in the 2016 General Election
41.4% of overseas voters were able to cast their ballot, accounting for around 3.2% of total Korean voters in 2016. According to the NEC, among 154,217 registered overseas Koreans, only 63,797 were able to cast the votes in the six-day poll that took place at 198 polling stations in 113 countries worldwide. The highest voter turnout by regional groups was posted in African countries at 69.3 percent. The Middle East followed at 66.3 percent with Europe at 60.2 percent, according to the commission. In the Americas and Asia, the rate stood at 39 percent and 37 percent, respectively. South Koreans living in Asia took up nearly half of the total number of overseas voters at 29,422 people, while 20,395 people voted in the Americas, 9,479 in Europe, 2,841 in the Middle East, and 1,642 in Africa.
The Number of the Overseas Voters in the 2020 General Election
For the 2020 general election, there are half of the 170,000 Korean, living overseas as the result of voting. Generally, those citizens were not able to cast their vote by mail, but they needed to cast a ballot at South Korean embassies or consulates overseas.
However, according to the National Election Commission (NEC), for this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the overseas citizens cannot send their ballots home because of border controls. Therefore, only around 40,858 South Koreans who are living abroad had casted their ballots at 85 diplomatic missions for six days since April 1.
The ballots from 18 missions in 17 countries including Brazil, Poland, Uzbekistan and Nigeria were not able to reach South Korea because of international travel restrictions. According to NEC, because of the pandemic, only 23.8 percent of 171, 959 eligible voters abroad were able to cast their ballots, with the result of the lowest ever turnout, if compared with 45.7 % in 2012 and 41.4 % in 2016.