Tuesday, 17 July 2018

2018 International Election Observation Program and Seoul International Forum on Elections


On June 13, 2018 the NEC held the 7th nationwide simultaneous local elections, with thousands of regional and local positions being put up for a vote. Here in the Administration and International Affairs Division we were not involved directly with the management of the election, but we were focused on using these elections as a focal point to increase exchange and cooperation with other election management bodies and our partner international organizations.

During the election period the NEC hosted two main international events. The first was the International Election Observation Program, with the NEC inviting over 50 participants from 23 election management bodies and international organizations from around the world.  Alongside their observation program, the participants also took part in the second of our main international events, the 2018 Seoul International Forum on Elections, during which over 100 election officials, experts and academics debated three of the key issues in election management.

Lets’ look at the two events in more detail!

2018 International Election Observation Program

The NEC’s International Election Observation Program focuses on exchanging election knowledge and experience between the NEC and participants, and among the participants themselves. The NEC provided support to invite participants from partner EMBs to encourage the development of election management practices and also international organizations involved in election management and democracy.  The program is all about learning, strengthening capacity and continuing to build a worldwide family of election management experts.  

Lasting from June 7 to June 14, the program allowed the participants to observe and experience the main parts of the elections system here in Korea. On the opening day, there was an introduction to the Korean election system from one of our professors at the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy (KOCEI) and a mock early voting and counting experience. The NEC setup mock polling and counting stations in the hotel, making it easier for participants to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the voting and counting systems as well as the equipment used during elections. This was backed up by observing elections the following day to see the process in action.

Throughout the week, there was also an opportunity to visit to the main institutions involved in Korean elections and democracy including the NEC, KOCEI, and the National Assembly. The main day of the program was of course election day itself on June 13, and the participants were split into groups of 10 at most. This meant everyone could fit into polling and counting stations and cause no disturbance to voters and election management staff, and all participants were able to go to four different polling stations during the day to give a well-rounded view of events during the day. For the brave souls that work up at 5am and get to the polling stations by 5:50am, they were also able to view the preparation and opening of polling stations. Despite busy polling stations and a relatively high turnout for local elections of 60.2%, it was possible for everyone to have space to take in each part of the voting process.

We ended the program with an excellent exchange of experiences and views on June 14 morning, with each team presenting on what they found over the program and giving feedback on their personal experiences. This helped everyone to have an overall view on the week and it was helpful for the NEC to get some feedback from other election management experts from around the world.

The full schedule for the week looked like this:

June 7
June 8
June 9 (Sat)
June 10 (Sun)
June 11 (Mon)
June 12 (Tue)
June 13 (Wed)
June 14 (Thu)
Participants Arrived and Registered
Opening ceremony and Introduction to the Korean Election System
Observed Early Voting Polling Stations
Rest Day
Participated in the Seoul International Forum on Elections
Cultural Activities
Observed the opening of polling stations
Closing briefing
Mock Early Voting
Visited the NEC and KOCEI Main Offices
Visited National Assembly
Observed polling stations during voting and counting stations in the evening
Participants departed

2018 Seoul International Forum on Elections

The Seoul International Forum on Elections has become a growing event on the international calendar of international election management bodies. This year it was held at the Le Meridien Hotel Seoul on June 11, 4 days into our observation program. This forum was become a place for established experts in the field to come together to discuss these issues, share ideas and debate how to make elections around the world cleaner, fairer and more inclusive. This year was the largest forum to date and included a very exciting cultural show at the end of the evening for all the guests.

We would like to thank the nine presenters that spoke at the forum from election management bodies and international organizations from around the world. There was an excellent diversity of speakers who represented different views on each topic, and the audience engaged with a number of interesting questions and points throughout the day.  In particular, there were a lot of questions for Facebook’s representative Katie Harbath on the hot-button issue of so-called ‘fake news’ and we hope that everyone was able to pick up something new during the day.

The audience was made up of participants in our observation program and election officials and academics based in Korea. We were delighted the hall was packed out and that so many people were able to ask questions and put their views forward.

The full schedule was as follows:

09:30 – 10:00
Opening Ceremony
Opening Remarks:
Kwon Soon-il (NEC Chairperson)
Congratulatory Remarks:
Michael Reiterer  (Ambassador-designate and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea)
Edwin C. Sagurton, Jr. (Charge D’Affairs from the US Embassy Seoul)
10:00 – 12:00
Measures to Expand Participation in Elections by Socially Marginalized Groups 
Kim Dong-beom (Secretary General, Korea Differently Abled Federation)
1. Christopher Wyrod (Deputy Country Director of Indonesia, Asia Foundation)
2. Jeffrey Karp (Professor at Brunel University and Senior Research Fellow,  Electoral Integrity Project)
3. Laura Villalba (Election Consultant, including for the U.S. Federal Election Commission)
12:00 – 13:30

13:30 – 15:30
Fake News: The Effects on Elections and Measures to Prevent It
Jeong Se-hoon (Professor, Korea University School of Media and Communication) 
1. Hwang Yongsuk (Director of the Digital Communication Research Center and Professor, Konkuk University Department of Media and Communication)
2. Katie Harbath (Global Politics and Government Outreach Director, Facebook)
3. Om Prakash Rawat (Chief Election Commissioner of India)
15:30 – 16:00

16:00 – 18:00
Ways to Promote Cooperation Between Election-related Organizations from Around the World
 Lee Jong-hee (Professor, Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy)
1. Al A. Parreno (Chairperson of the Philippines Commission on Elections and the Association of Asian Election Authorities) 
2. Laura Matjošaitytė (Chairperson of the Central Election Commission of Lithuania and President of the Association of European Election Officials)
3. Melene Glynn (Specialist in the Department of Electoral Cooperation and Observation, Organization of American States)
4. Youn Dae-rak (Director of the Administration and International Affairs Division, National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea)
18:20 Onwards
Welcome Dinner and Cultural Event

Thank you to everyone that participated in all the events, we look forward to continued partnership with our colleagues involved in elections from around the world!

Monday, 22 January 2018

NEC International Activities in 2018 – What’s Coming Up!


2017 is now over, and after a busy year that included an early presidential election the NEC is now preparing for another important year for election management and for our international activities. On June 13 this year the 7th nationwide simultaneous local elections will be held and a number of our major international events will be scheduled around them, including our 2018 Election Visitor Program and the 2018 Seoul International Forum on Elections. So here is what is coming up in 2018!

2017 Nationwide Simultaneous Local Elections 

7th nationwide simultaneous local elections are scheduled for June 13, with thousands of separate elections taking placing around the country on the same day.  Voters will take to the ballot to elect a minimum of seven elected positions (there may be more in the case of additional re or by-elections):

·         Metropolitan City or Provincial Superintendent of Education
·         Mayor or Governor
·         Constituency Members of a Metropolitan City or Provincial Council
·         Proportional Representation Members of a Metropolitan City or Provincial Council
·         Head of a Local Government
·         Constituency Members of a Local Government
·         Proportional Representation Members of a Local Government

Local elections in Korea have thousands of candidates and present a tough administrative challenge. The four-tiers of the Election Commission have to work together to undertake this large-scale operation. In terms of international activities, the NEC will host our Election Visitor Program and the 2018 Seoul International Forum on Elections alongside the election to give participants an opportunity to take as much as possible away from these major elections.

International Election Visitor Program (EVP)

Vice Chairperson Moon Sang-boo Speaks
during the 2017 EVP Program
Unlike traditional election observations, the NEC’s International Election Visitor Program focuses on exchanging election knowledge and experience between the NEC and participants, and among the participants themselves. This year our EVP will be held around the June 13 local elections.

The program will last for around a week, allowing participants to be briefed before voting and to observe both early voting and the voting process. In addition, the participants will also take part in a post-election debriefing in which they share their views on what they have seen during the program, opinions and views on election management and their thoughts on how election processes can be improved and developed.

The NEC is expecting to provide funding and support for participants, allowing election officials from around the world to attend and ensuring a diverse range of views on election management. The number of participants are yet to be confirmed, but more information will be made available in the near future through email to our partners and on our official website.

Seoul International Forum on Elections (SIFE)

2017 SIFE Participants
SIFE is held annually and this year it will be held in June alongside local elections and our EVP program. The goal will be for established experts in the field to come together to discuss issues related to election management, share ideas and debate how to make elections around the world cleaner, fairer and more inclusive.

The NEC plans to invite some of the most prominent organizations and experts in the field of elections, including professionals from other election management bodies, to speak at the forum in line with its commitment to international cooperation. SIFE has been establishing itself as an important part of the election management community calendar, with 100 participants from around the world taking part in 2017, and we hope we can invite another group of world-renowned experts this year.

The forum will be a one-day event, with the day split into topics chosen by the NEC. These topics will be chosen according to the trends of election management and with the input of the various departments and affiliated organizations of the NEC. The location and date for 2018 has yet to be confirmed, but keep checking our website or Facebook for further details in the future.

Seminar for the Improvement of Election Laws and Systems

2015 Law Seminar Participants Inspect Equipment
The Seminar for the Improvement of Election Laws and Systems is held annually together with KOICA in the Autumn and aims to bring together election officials from various countries to debate and discuss topics related to the election law and systems and each country. Through this discussion, the participants can review other countries’ election systems and receive feedback back on their own systems to help facilitate mutual improvement.

Once again this year’s program plans to run for around a week and will involve a number of sessions on major topics related to elections. Each delegation will make presentations on the laws and systems related to that topic and discussions will follow.

Election Observations and International Conferences 2018

The NEC also plans to take part in major international conferences and election observations this year to continue our active international activities and further build our relationships with our partners around the world. Conferences and observations further develop the capabilities of our staff through the opportunity to experience different electoral systems and election management methods.

For more information on our international activities this year then contact us on necvote@gmail.com and make sure to keep up to date with our Facebook and website!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

KOCEI Opens New Training Center in Suwon


This month the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy (KOCEI) opened its brand new training center in Suwon, moving from its former home in Jongno, welcoming a new age of civic education in Korea. The new upgraded facilities will allow KOCEI to undertake training for election officials, candidates and political parties as well as provide future leaders and the next generation of voters with the civic education they need. 

After two years of preparation and building work, KOCEI has finally made its move to its state of the art home. New conference rooms, lecture halls and a large main theater will mean KOCEI will have the capacity to hold large-scale training and education programs in the future. Previously, KOCEI was working from the NEC's former main office in Jongno in central Seoul, but this move to Suwon will further improve the quality of KOCEI's work and make it a world class civic education institute. 

Outside the Opening Ceremony
As well as opening its new home, KOCEI also took the opportunity to launch its new slogan, ‘Cultivating Democratic Citizens to Open the Republic of Korea Tomorrow.’ Under this vision, KOCEI will work to ensure that an advanced political culture with actively engaged citizens is able to take root by informing young people about elections and politics. It is through this education that the voters of tomorrow will become engaged in politics and democracy for the first time. 

But it is not only young people that will feel the benefit of the new center. Training programs for those who wish to run in elections and for members of all political parties will also be run to ensure that everyone who wants to be part of an election will be able to do so and will have a good base knowledge of electoral law. This allows for both equal opportunity and will reduce the chance of violations of election law due to misunderstandings or misinterpretations. KOCEI's new training center will be a place to remove the barriers for entry into democracy. 

NEC Vice Chairperson Moon Sang-boo
KOCEI, was created in 1996 to run civic education in Korea and has quickly developed as an institution, running hundreds of programs. The current President, Seo In-deok was there at the ceremony alongside Vice Chairperson on the NEC Moon Sang-boo and Secretary General Kim Dai-nyeon to welcome in this new era. 21 years after its founding, it was a proud moment to witness the final unveiling of a center that will now be able to meet the increased role KOCEI plays in facilitating Korean democracy.  

As we move into 2018, a number of important programs will be held for the first time in the new center. The future leaders camp for students from around the country will be held next year, as well as the politics academy for democratic citizens. Next year will also see the 14th International Symposium for Civic Education, which will bring together civic education experts from around the world to discuss the key topics in the field. 

To check out continued updates from KOCEI, you can visit the website  http://www.civicedu.go.kr/eng/ or keep checking the blog. We look forward to an exciting 2018 for KOCEI and NEC!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Autumn 2017 Election Observations


With presidential elections taking place earlier than expected and local elections not scheduled until June next year, the NEC is currently fulfilling its roles that it usually performs outside of an election period. This includes recommending changes to election law, evaluating the outcomes of previous elections and administering political funds and political parties. This period also allows the NEC to participate in election observations around the world to improve the capabilities of the NEC staff and build further knowledge of the trends in election management.

This autumn the NEC took part in a number of observations across various countries, mostly in Europe, sending between five and ten delegations per visit. As well as observing the relevant voting and counting processes, each delegation met with the relevant election management body to learn about how they manage each election within their jurisdiction and to build further cooperation between the NEC and other like-minded organizations.

NEC Staff visited the following major elections:
  • Norwegian legislative elections (September 11)
  • German legislative elections (September 24)
  • Swiss local and national referendums (September 24)
  • Austrian legislative elections (October 15)
  • Canadian local elections (October 16)
  • Virginia statewide elections (November 7)

These observations have allowed NEC staff to experience different election management structures and electoral systems to develop their expertise. All these elections had very different forms of elections including first-past-the-post, different types of proportional representation systems and referendums, allowing staff to gain a broader knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each system.

The visit to Frankfurt, Germany had an additional focus, with staff from the NEC’s PR division joining the delegates and making a short documentary about the elections that will appear on our eTV channel in the near future. This is part of the NEC’s drive to support additional civic education on its channel to keep voters informed of how elections around the world work.

The delegates had a more extensive schedule that also included going to selected schools to watch ‘juniorwahl’ elections, where high school students choose a youth legislative body as part of a special civic education program. Students enthusiastically took part and understood the rights and responsibilities that come with coming of political age. This was an incredibly interesting experience that inspired our experts about different ways to teach young voters about the electoral system.

The visit to Switzerland also allowed our staff to take a look into the very unique political system in the country, which encourages a large amount of direct participation in the form of referendums on specific laws and policies. In these referendums, postal voting is extensively used and is by far the most popular way for people to vote, which is very different to the early voting system used here in Korea. This allowed our staff to compare the two and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each method.

Overall, these observations play a crucial role in the constant development of the NEC and help to build further relations with other election management bodies to help improve democracy here in Korea and hopefully worldwide. 

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