Back To Top

Korean-made voting machine scandal in Congo to be brought up to Korean Foreign Ministry

Five activists from Democratic Republic of Congo met the head of Korea’s National Election Commission on Thursday, asking the Korean government to ban a Korean firm from supplying their controversial voting machines for an election in Congo scheduled for Dec. 23.

Although the Korean government has “no legal grounds to ban a private firm from doing business,” the NEC will still forward the activists’ concerns to Korea’s Foreign Ministry, the electoral branch said.

The meeting was arranged in response to the Congolese activists’ statement submitted to the NEC, as well as Korea’s Justice Ministry and the National Assembly on July 16. On the same day, some 20 Congolese people residing in South Korea held a rally in front of the Korean supplier of the machines -- Miru Systems -- in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province.
 
Bwelungu Nombi Henry (left), a Congolese activist living in South Korea, protests against Miru Systems, a Korean firm that has signed a deal to supply its controversial voting devices to Congo`s upcoming election in December, in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, on July 16. (Claire Lee/ The Korea Herald)
Bwelungu Nombi Henry (left), a Congolese activist living in South Korea, protests against Miru Systems, a Korean firm that has signed a deal to supply its controversial voting devices to Congo`s upcoming election in December, in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, on July 16. (Claire Lee/ The Korea Herald)

The Korean firm, which has only exported voting devices to countries that can be considered struggling democracies, has been under scrutiny in Congo since signing a $150 million deal to supply some 100,000 machines earlier this year.

The Congolese activists say the Korean machines carry a high risk of undermining the reliability of the long-awaited vote, especially as millions of people there are illiterate and do not have access to electricity.

The upcoming election in Congo is especially crucial as it seeks to end the country’s troubled political crisis that have involved deadly protests. Much of the violence that has plagued the country is linked to its President Joseph Kabila, who has stayed in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit by deliberately delaying elections.

“We regret that a Korean firm is linked with such a (troubled political) situation in Congo, as South Korea, too, has witnessed many sacrifices during its democratization process,” said Kim Dai-nyeon, the secretary-general of Korea’s NEC.
 
“But there is not much the NEC can do about a deal between a private Korean firm and the Congo’s election body.”

While Korea’s NEC says the Korean government is not involved with the controversy surrounding Miru Systems, the deal between the firm and Congo’s National Election Commission (CENI), was partly arranged by former NEC head Kim Yong-hi. Kim is currently under investigation for a number of corruption charges.

Miru has been the NEC’s exclusive supplier of electronic vote-counting devices for Korean elections since 2014, the year Kim was appointed as head of the NEC. From 2002-2014 machines were supplied to the NEC by another firm.

The Miru device was used in the country’s presidential election last year.

Kim orchestrated the deal as the head of A-Web, a South Korean NGO that connects Korean tech firms to electoral commissions worldwide. He has been leading A-Web since its foundation in 2013, and carried double duties as the head of both A-Web and the state-run NEC of Korea from 2014-2016. 

A-Web received some 43 billion won ($38.11 million) from the NEC -- a government entity -- while Kim was in charge of both of the organizations.  

“People in Congo think of the machines as Korean machines, not machines by Miru,” said Bwelungu Nombi Henry, one of the Congolese activists who attended the meeting with the current NEC head Kim Dai-nyeon. 

“I acknowledge that Miru is a private firm, but this ongoing issue also has to do with South Korea’s reputation in the international community. I also hope the Korean government can consider this as a humanitarian issue – so many people have been killed while resisting against Kabila’s election delays.”

Among other countries that Miru has supplied voting devices include Russia, Iraq, El Salvador and Kyrgyzstan. In Iraq, in particular, Miru's machines are currently at the heart of fraud allegations that led to a manual recount of votes after its May 12 general election.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)




MOST POPULAR
LATEST NEWS
Korea Herald daum
subscribe