Voters Pass through medical checks

Yoon Tae Hoo
Yoon Tae Hoo

The voting in South Korea draws a contrast with an upended election cycle in the United States, where some states pushed back presidential primaries or switched to voting by mail. South Korean voters wore masks and moved slowly between lines of tape at polling stations today to elect lawmakers in the shadows of the spreading Corona Virus.

The election was closely watched around the world as one of the first nationwide votes since the epidemic began, Corona Virus has caused delays in many other political calendars. While South Korea’s electorate is deeply divided along ideological and generational lines and regional loyalties, recent surveys showed growing support for Moon and his liberal party, reflecting the public’s approval of an aggressive test and quarantine program so far credited for lower fatality rates compared to worst-hit areas in China, Europe and North America.

Around 87,000 of South Korea’s 172,000 eligible voters overseas also denied absentee voting after polling was ruled out in dozens of diplomatic offices worldwide as the pandemic grew. To hold the elections as scheduled, South Korean election officials and health authorities drew up a deliberate set of preventive measures to reduce risks of the virus transmitted. “Please do exercise your valuable rights by voting, but also refrain from other gatherings or activities that involve multiple people in confined spaces,” Health Ministry official Yoon Tae Ho said.

The government resisted calls to postpone the parliamentary elections billed as a midterm referendum on President Moon Jae-in, who enters the final two years of his single five-year term grappling with a historic public health crisis that is unleashing massive economic shock.

Quarantined voters will be escorted or monitored through tracking apps and must maintain a 2-meter distance at polling places, while workers fully dressed in protective suits will disinfect booths after each of them vote. Hospitalized virus patients were able to vote by mail if they had applied. Around 400 mildly ill patients participated in early voting.

South Korea has confirmed more than 10,500 infections and 225 deaths from the Corona Virus, with new cases declining in recent weeks. But there’s concern about rising diseases in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area and worries that crowds at parks and on mass transportation may indicate a relaxing of social distancing. For more Politics news click here.