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Gyeonggi governor hopeful takes issue with voting rights of Chinese permanent residents

Lawmaker Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party who has recently announced her bid for governor of Gyeonggi Province, speaks at a press conference on April. 7. (Yonhap)
Lawmaker Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party who has recently announced her bid for governor of Gyeonggi Province, speaks at a press conference on April. 7. (Yonhap)
Gyeonggi governor hopeful Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party has said that voting rights of Chinese nationals with permanent residence here should be restricted on the grounds of reciprocity.

“Over 120,000 foreigners, among which are nearly 100,000 Chinese people, will have voting rights in the upcoming local election,” the politician said in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“If our citizens cannot vote in a certain country, it makes sense for us to restrict the same rights. If a single citizen of ours cannot vote in China, it is unfair for some 100,000 Chinese nationals to have voting rights in our country.”

Since 2005, foreign nationals aged 19 years and older who have lived in South Korea for over three years after obtaining a permanent resident visa can cast a ballot in local elections.

Though the revision to the voting law was seen as a move towards globalization, it has also faced criticism over the fact that a majority of foreign nationals with voting rights are Chinese nationals.

Against this backdrop, Kim has said she would introduce tougher requirements for foreigners’ voting rights and apply reciprocity when elected as the governor of Gyeonggi Province.

Kim was President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s spokesperson until April 5. She stepped down from the post to run for the June 1 gubernatorial election.

More foreigners live in Gyeonggi Province than anywhere else in the country – 380,144 people in 2020 according to government data.

The scope of voting rights of foreigners varies in each country.

In Japan, voting rights are granted to citizens only, though discussions of extending the rights to foreign residents have been had.

Many states of the European Union allow EU residents to take part in local and European elections.

By Yim Hyun-su (hyunsu@heraldcorp.com)
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