Since 2006, certain foreigners in Korea were given the right to vote at local elections. The Public Official Election Act in 2005 enables foreigners to vote at local elections in order to encourage international cooperation and exchange. Immigration Control Law under Article 10 says foreigners, over the age of 19 and who have residency lasting at least three years, have the right to vote during local elections. It is estimated that in Incheon, there are about 6,300 foreigners who are qualified to vote in 2014 local elections. Some foreigners have shown interest and excitement about the right to vote because they have lived in Korea for several years bearing the same tax burdens as Korean nationals while not given any right to vote. Now, they are able to vote for a representative of their choice. However, some Koreans are concerned about the Act. They claim foreigners do not have precise understanding about candidates and their pledges. Also, there is not enough information from the government for foreigners to truly understand a candidate’s platform since most of the campaign bulletins are only printed in Korean or English. Thus, the Sookmyung Times asked Sookmyungians what they think about the Act. Should foreigners be allowed to vote in 2014 local elections?
Foreigners Should Not be Allowed to Vote in Korean Local Elections
Divison of Business Administration '14
The law giving the right to vote to foreigners should be abolished because they are not national citizens. Firstly, people who don't have South Korean nationality do not need to fulfill South Korea’s four national duties: paying taxation, receiving of education, serving in defense, and working. The four obligations are qualifiers of people’s rights. If we give foreigners the right to vote without making them fulfill the four duties, a majority of Korean citizens will also protest fulfillment of the those duties.
Second, foreigners who have lived here more than three years still don't have a sense of responsibility for our country. They have lived in our country comparatively long, but they retain their own homeland’s citizenship. If they had a sense of responsibility, then, they would apply for South Korean nationality.
Third, as time goes on, we will not know the owners of our country. This situation will lead to serious problems involving the loss of sovereign power. Sovereign power is the main right of a nation’s peoples, but if foreigners have the right to vote, the president of our country will not need to act on behalf of citizens, so by extension, sovereignty will disappear.
A country must exist for its citizens and the law has to protect its national peoples. The right to vote is an important right for citizens. However, the law that gives the right to vote to foreigners doesn’t account for national citizens; it's for foreigners. Therefore, we need to reconsider the right to vote for foreigners.
Division of Business Administration '14
I think the law giving voting rights to the foreigners is justified. First of all, Korean society is quickly becoming a multi-cultural society because the number of multi-cultural families is increasing. Although their number continues to increase, they are seen as social minorities to many people in Korea. However, we should not stress the significance of population numbers, but realize it’s a matter of receiving obvious political rights as part of Korean society.
In the United States, the right to vote was given to women and African Americans, and consequently, laws were enacted to protect these rights. Therefore, foreigners who have lived in Korea for some time as members of Korean society deserve to be protected under the law, which includes the right to vote.
In addition, illegal employment of foreign workers has corrupted society morals. Many foreign minorities are also suffering from this corruption, and they deserve to be protected by law through the same equal rights as those enjoyed by the majority. Minorities should be able to exercise their political rights.
People objecting to the law are merely looking at whether foreigners are able to think and behave like Korean citizens. However, three years is sufficient time to notice cultural differences and get familiar with Korean culture and Korean society features. Thus, foreigners who are diligently fulfilling their duties while in Korean society should be granted the right to vote for candidates of their choice. I believe it’s the obvious thing to do.