National security officials detected signs that North Korea has attempted to influence overseas voting in next year’s general and presidential elections by sending out agents into overseas Korean societies, according to a local newspaper Thursday.
The communist state especially targeted Japan, where a large group of pro-North Koreans is located, it reported.
In addition to sending out covert agents, it is also suspected to have persuaded overseas Koreans to take sides with the North Korean regime.
“Over 50,000 people residing in Japan have acquired Korean nationality over the past 10 years,” said a diplomatic source.
“We suspect that some of them did so in order to cast their ballot in next year’s elections.”
The National Election Commission and the Foreign Ministry are thus set to step up countermeasures to North Korea’s potential efforts of political manipulations.
“Little can be done, however, under the current law to prevent ethnic Koreans from reinstating their nationality or stopping them from voting,” said an NEC official.
The public election law was revised back in 2009, based on a Constitutional Court ruling, and is to take effect starting with next year’s general election in April.
The number of Korean nationals currently living overseas is 2.79 million, including 1.15 million permanent residence holders, according to the Foreign Ministry as of July.
Of them, anyone aged 19 and older may cast votes in the presidential and general elections. They are required to pre-register with local diplomatic offices during the given period.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org