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How to Hold an Election in a Pandemic, South Korean Style

How to Hold an Election in a Pandemic, South Korean Style
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How to Hold an Election in a Pandemic, South Korean Style

South Korea has been widely praised as a global model for how to contain the coronavirus. Now, it is trying to show the world how to vote during the pandemic. The country is holding a legislative election April 15.

Dressed in his official blue campaign jacket, South Korean lawmaker Lee Hae-sik is sweeping the sidewalk and picking up trash along with several volunteers.

He says his party told him to hold a social distancing-approved campaign. So here he is, cleaning the street and disinfecting public surfaces. He says these are his main campaign activities now.

South Korea is moving ahead with its legislative election, even during a time of social distancing.

Gone are the noisy street rallies that are a hallmark of South Korean elections. Instead, the two-week campaign is more subdued, with candidates focusing much of their efforts online.

Voting will look different too. At polling stations, face masks, plastic gloves, and temperature checks will be required. Anyone showing symptoms will vote at a separate booth. Many coronavirus patients will be voting by mail.

Some problems couldn’t be fixed. Because of lockdowns overseas, only about half of Korean voters living in foreign countries will be able to vote.

But there was never any serious consideration of delaying the election, says candidate Shin Beom-chul. He says the conditions may not be very ideal, but they’re the same for everyone. So he thinks the vote should proceed.

The vote is a midterm test for President Moon Jae-in. Moon’s approval ratings have gone up as his government is seen as having taken measures to successfully contains the virus.

But analyst Jeong Han-wool says Moon isn’t in safe yet territory yet, especially because of South Korea’s fragile economy.

But so far, the outbreak has not forced South Korea’s economy to shut down, as in other countries.

And now its democracy is also finding a way to move forward, even during a pandemic.