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Kim says Chinese permanent residents should be stripped of right to vote in Korea

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Kim Eun-hye, the ruling People Power Party's candidate for governor of Gyeonggi Province, speaks during an event at the Press Center in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap
Kim Eun-hye, the ruling People Power Party's candidate for governor of Gyeonggi Province, speaks during an event at the Press Center in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap

By Jung Min-ho

Kim Eun-hye, the ruling People Power Party's candidate for the governor of Gyeonggi Province, has reiterated what she says is the need to take away from Chinese permanent residents in Korea their right to vote here, saying it is unfair for Koreans who don't enjoy the same right in China.

"Not a single Korean citizen has the right to vote in China, while 100,000 Chinese nationals living in Korea have the right. It is unfair," Kim, 51, said on Facebook Tuesday, ahead of the June 1 local elections. "Some media outlets and politicians have tried to paint me as 'xenophobic' for demanding the same right for Koreans in China. But many citizens, including residents of Gyeonggi, are not convinced that this amounts to 'hatred.'"

Kim said she will continue to push ahead with the legislative reform based on "the principle of reciprocity." She has repeatedly taken issue with the voting rights of permanent residents of foreign nationality since she declared her election bid on April 6.

Unlike in the presidential and general elections, permanent residents of foreign nationality are allowed to vote in the elections for local government positions, including governors and mayors, if three years have passed since they acquired permanent residency in Korea. For the upcoming elections, a record number of more than 126,000 permanent residents of foreign nationality will be eligible to vote, according to data from the National Assembly.

Among them, Chinese nationals account for 78.9 percent, with more than 99,000 people, followed by Taiwanese nationals (8.4 percent), Japanese nationals (5.7 percent), Vietnamese nationals (1.2 percent) and Americans (0.8 percent).

After Korea became the first country in Asia to grant election voting rights ― excluding national elections ― to non-citizen permanent residents in 2005, the number of eligible non-citizen voters increased steadily from just 6,726 in 2006 to 12,875 in 2010, 48,428 in 2014, and 106,205 in 2018.

Kim Dong-yeon, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea's candidate for the Gyeonggi governorship, speaks during an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of China-South Korea diplomatic relations in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. Yonhap
Kim Dong-yeon, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea's candidate for the Gyeonggi governorship, speaks during an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of China-South Korea diplomatic relations in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. Yonhap

Rep. Hong Jung-min, a spokeswoman for Kim Dong-yeon, the opposition Democratic Party of Korea's candidate for the Gyeonggi governorship, accused his ruling party rival of "stirring up hate" against foreigners in a statement to the media.

"Kim Eun-hye's principle of reciprocity appears to target Chinese voters. But reform (based on the principle) would eventually deprive all foreigners of their right to vote here," she said. "As long as residents honor their duty of paying taxes, their right to elect their local leaders should be guaranteed. That's how it was adopted, based on the principles of democracy."

According to the latest poll released Wednesday by Realmater, a pollster, the race is tight, with Kim Eun-hye (43.8 percent) ahead of Kim Dong-yeon (43.2 percent) by 0.6 of a percentage point.


Jung Min-ho mj6c2@koreatimes.co.kr


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