South Korea Handling Elections in the time of COVID19 pandemic

(Feature image: Shutterstock)

Since the late-December 2019, the COVID19 outbreak has been hugely disrupting the global calendar that it has caused a number of political events cancelled or postponed indefinitely, on a worldwide scale. Despite the mere assumptions and agreements of such changes, South Korea has pushed ahead with parliamentary elections as scheduled, on April 15.

As the first country to hold a national election in the face of the global pandemic, many countries and governments were looking forward to hearing their results and strategies implemented, in hopes of the procedures tuning out to be a good starting reference for them as well. The election campaigns and notices emphasised that all voters were obliged to follow the strict code of conduct as well as to perform the civic duty of social distancing while they take part in the election, as shown in the poster below.

A poster showing the guidelines and precautions set under Korean National Election Commission, from

The precautions set under Korean National Election Commission ensured the following promises.

  • Maintenance of hygienic & virus-free conditions
    • While it was compulsory for every voter to wear a mask (the unmasked ones were turned away and lost the right to vote), they were also given disposable plastic gloves before entering voting booths to cast their ballots. Once voting was done, hand sanitiser was sprayed on the way out as taking off the gloves. Simultaneously, regular ventilation of the voting booths and the room as well as sanitising every item that might have been in contact with others, were done in a careful manner.
  • Meticulous monitoring and check-ups on voters
    • Before entering the voting room, the voter’s temperature was measured by an assistant using a laser thermometer that does not require any physical contact with others. For the ones with temperature higher than 37.5°C, they’d be guided to a designated area with individual voting booths.

  • A rapider and safety-ensuring voting system
    • To minimise the contact between the voters, they’d adopted a voting system that can fasten the voting progress. It was mandatory for all the voters to prepare and get ready to show their identification cards immediately as they approach the election centre. In addition, they’d been early announced that they’d be required to put down the mask while a short identification process takes place, in pursuit of avoiding unexpected and unnecessary take-offs of the masks that might allow the spread of germs. Moreover, the maintenance of social distance between each voter was strictly monitored.

Despite few objections and worries before pushing ahead with the election, the precautions and guidelines provided in pursuit of preventing potential risks can be seen as Korean government’s best efforts to balance the rights in this clash both to civil liberties and to public health. As a result, it recorded a voter turnout of 66.2% which is the highest rate in the past 28 years.

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