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Authorities swamped with rampant alleged Election Law violations

By Lee Kyung-min

Law enforcement and election authorities continued to struggle due to a spike in complaints over suspected or confirmed Election Law violations, Wednesday, including the day of local elections.

Complaints ranged from smear campaigns, damaging campaign material as well as sharing photos taken inside polling booths, all of which are criminal offenses subject to prosecution.

A branch of the National Election Commission in (NEC) South Gyeongsang Province, said it filed a complaint with the prosecution against a dozen people including candidates and campaign staff over their illegal activities. Out of a total of 140 suspected cases reported in the region thus far, NEC officials filed criminal complaints against those involved in 24 cases, referred five cases to investigative authorities and gave 115 others verbal warnings.

The officials said a candidate running for a county head failed to fully disclose the exact amount of his personal wealth on the NEC webpage, an offense that carries a maximum of five years imprisonment or a fine of up to 30 million won ($28,000). In a separate complaint filed against a campaign official who works for a candidate running for provincial councilor, the NEC said the official provided meals to three voters in the region and paid 600,000 won each to two of them. The NEC said it would consider imposing fine of up to 50 times the value of the meal provided on the three.

An NEC branch in South Jeolla Province said it filed a complaint with the prosecution against four campaign officials for a candidate running for Jindo County head for providing 40 voters meals worth over 310,000 won last month. A similar complaint was filed against two close aides to a candidate running for Hampyeong County for providing 35 voters with meals worth nearly 500,000 won.

A Seoul branch of the NEC filed a complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office against a teacher at a private high school for posting messages promoting a liberal candidate running for the city's education superintendent between May 4 and June 9 on Facebook. The teacher in question wrote 21 postings supporting the candidate and his educational policies and clicked "like" on 83 postings on the candidate's Facebook. NEC said such an act is in violation of the law which bans both private and public school teachers from engaging in any campaigning efforts, punishable by a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to 6 million won.

The NEC branch on Jeju Island filed a complaint against a man who shared a photo of a ballot he took inside a polling booth on his social networking site, an offense punishable by a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to 6 million won. Taking a photo of the ballot or distributing it online is a crime, but it is legal for a voter to take a selfie outside or near the polling booth or take a picture of election-stamped "body parts" in what is widely known as a "proof shot," taken after casting a ballot.

The National Police Agency also started an investigation into an illegal gambling website which paid people according to the odds on the candidates they wagered on.