Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

Although the participation of Koreans in Japan in the Japanese local elections has been widely discussed in the past, there is no much information regarding their voting rights in the Korean national elections.
The liaison office for the movement "Demanding the Right to Vote in Korea" is located in Ikuno ward (Osaka) and the representative, Mr. Park Youngmi, heads the Kansai branch of the Hankyore Network for the electors living outside the country.
This Hankyore Network lobbies with the Korean government to give to Koreans living abroad the same voting rights guaranteed by the Korean Constitution to all Korean citizens and to make the needed legal reforms to achieve that goal.
The following reasons are given in favor of the voting rights. Although Koreans living in Japan hold Korean citizenship, their rights as Korean citizens have been for long neglected. The right to vote in the Korean national elections is very important to remind all those holding Korean citizenship of their Korean identity, especially to those who try to live in Japan as Korean nationals.
Nowadays those political rights are internationally recognized in many countries. Japan, from 1998, and recently Indonesia legally recognized the voting rights of their citizens living outside the country. Only South Korea, among the members of OECD, is not equipped with proper legislation regarding the issue.
Opinions for the denial of such political rights are based on the fact that Koreans living abroad neither pay taxes in Korea nor do military service. But these are not considered reasons to curtail the basic rights of citizens. On one hand, according to the prevention of double taxation, stipulated in the country-to-country Convention, taxes should be paid in the place of income and, on the other hand, citizens with permanent residence abroad are exempted from conscription, due to the special circumstances of their residence.
From this point of view, people worry that the movement to demand voting rights in the Korean national elections might hinder the acquirement of the right to vote in local constituencies in Japan. But again, taking the example of North European countries, foreigners resident there are allowed to vote in the local elections without putting limits to their rights to vote back home.
This is also true of Japanese living there. The political participation of foreigners living in Japan with regard to local constituencies is a concrete issue of how will foreign residents exercise political power in the local administration and it is up to the Japanese government to decide.But in case that an awareness of reversion to Korea and to Korean citizenship becomes an obstacle to participate in local politics here, then the only alternative left is to be naturalized in Japan and this is nothing but to accept the concept of assimilation. The recognition of the right to vote in the national elections of their own countries, for foreign residents, could not become an excuse to deny them the voting rights in Japanese local elections.
Again, people might think that, what matters is the place where one lives and national elections in one's place of origin are not that important. Certainly, the local living environment is very familiar and important to everybody, but is it good for persons with Korean citizenship that try to live as Koreans in Japan to continue been treated ambiguously, as foreigners that do not possess a motherland? Since they are living as Koreans in Japan they should be guarded by their government in all possible ways and by using their right to speak, their identity as Koreans will become strong and the Korean government will get increasingly interested in their issues. The fact that Korean residents could be able to vote in the national elections for President would bring their country of origin closer to the younger Korean generation born in Japan, thus strengthening their ethnic identity and the links with South Korea. The Hankyore network appeals to the need for acquiring such political rights.

N.B. The Hankyore network is conducting a signatures' movement. Those who would like to participate in the movement
Please, contact their Kansai office
Mr. Lee HP:
=====     Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved     =====