From L-R: Lee Jae-myung, the South Korean presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the minor opposition People's Party, Sim Sang-jung, the presidential candidate of the Justice Party and Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party. ( POOL/AFP / HEO RAN)

Posts mislead on voting rights for naturalised South Korean citizens in presidential election

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts shared repeatedly ahead of the upcoming South Korean presidential election claim the country's election commission published its voting guide pamphlet "only in [Mandarin] Chinese" for non-Korean speakers. The posts go on to claim that "Chinese people have nothing to do with the election". These claims are misleading; all foreign nationals who have obtained South Korean citizenship can vote in the country's presidential election. AFP found the commission also published a Vietnamese and English-language version of the same pamphlet for naturalised citizens who do not read Korean.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on February 15, 2022.

"I just don't get it. Why does South Korea's National Election Commission publish an official pamphlet on the presidential election in Chinese," reads the Korean-language claim in part. 

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on February 21, 2022. ( AFP)

The claim was shared alongside a link to a report published by Seoul-based online newspaper FN Today on February 14, 2022.

The Korean report is headlined: "Chinese is printed in the official pamphlet on presidential election".

It reads in part: "In a pamphlet published by South Korea's National Election Commission on the upcoming presidential election, the election information is printed in Mandarin Chinese.

"Only South Korean nationals can vote in the presidential election. Chinese people have nothing to do with the election. And what about Vietnamese, Americans and Japanese? It is unfair for the commission to print such information only in Chinese."

Screenshot of the FN Today report, captured on February 21, 2022. ( AFP)

The report published a screenshot of the pamphlet.

Korean text superimposed on the screenshot reads: "The commission unnecessarily published the election information in Chinese. After all, it is an election for South Korean president".

The 2022 South Korean presidential election is scheduled to be held on March 9, 2022.

Ahead of the polls, Yoon Suk-yeol, candidate for the opposition People Power Party, has been locked in a tight race with the ruling Democratic Party's candidate Lee Jae-myung.

An identical report was shared alongside a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here.

However, the claim is misleading. 

Voting rights

The South Korean law grants voting rights to Korean citizens aged 19 or above in the presidential election.

According to South Korea's National Election Commission, this includes foreigners who have acquired Korean citizenship -- also known as naturalised Korean citizens.

"Naturalised Korean citizens can vote in the presidential election," the commission told AFP on February 17.

The participation of naturalised Korean citizens in presidential elections has previously been covered by South Korean media outlets -- including Hankyoreh, Nocut News, and Hannam Ilbo.

"Foreigners who obtained Korean citizenship exercised their voting rights in the 17th South Korean presidential election held on 19th," reads a report from local daily Hankyoreh in part. 

Election pamphlets

Keyword searches on Google found that the pamphlet cited by the misleading report was originally published on January 7, 2022 here by the commission in four languages, including Mandarin Chinese.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the misleading post (L) and the pamphlet published by the commission (R):

The pamphlet is titled "Presidential Election: Together with Multicultural Families / 20th Presidential Election on Wednesday, March 9, 2022".

It provides information about the upcoming election -- including the date and location of the vote and the procedure for voting.

The same information, however, was published in Korean, Vietnamese, and English-language pamphlets -- not just Mandarin Chinese.

Screenshot of the commission's election pamphlet. Pages show the same information is printed in Vietnamese and English. ( The National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea)
Screenshot of the commission's election pamphlet. Page 11 shows the information is printed in four different languages -- Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and English. ( The National Election Commission of the Republic of Korea)

Producing pamphlets in different languages is part of the commission's efforts to encourage naturalised Korean citizens to vote in the upcoming election.

The strategy was highlighted in this video published on the official channel for the Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy, which is operated by the country's election commission.