A photojournalist’s revelation of irregularities in ‘Gangnam-2 constituency’

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative personal translation of an article appeared in <The Newsface> on Apr. 14, 2012, reporting the irregularities of ballot boxes in Gangnam-2 constituency at the general election held in Apr. 11. The Gangnam-2 constituency, one of the most richest constituencies in whole Korea, has been dominated by conservative party candidates for a long time. However, this time, due to the fraud and corruption scandals by ruling conservative party government, public opinion has been known to be different from so far. Furthermore, the ruling and opposition party candidates of this election were steadfast advocate and critic of Korea-US FTA, which made the election result all the more interesting. Presently, the ruling party candidate is known to win the election. But the irregularities observed in ballot boxes were so widespread and the election management commission’s reaction to such irregularities is so bizarre, some even raise the suspicion of systematic election fraud and it is hard to fathom how the controversy will evolve in the end. All rights regarding this post stay with the author of the original article or with <The Newsface> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their request. In the post, I tried to match the English translation of names of people / institutions / positions to their authentic ones as much as I can but, inevitably, some of them may be different. Original article of this post (in Korean) can be found in the link at the bottom.

Correspondent Seung-kwan Yang discloses full photo records of irregularities in ‘Gangnam-2 constituency’

“circumstantial evidence for hurried work & unfinished coverup”… Netizens “unprotesting Saenuri party is the more suspicious”

Reporter Jong-hyeon Cho | newsface21@gmail.com

A blog post by a freelance correspondent Seung-kwan Yang who was at the site of vote-counting stadium of Gangnam-2 constituency that floats as the epicenter of vote rigging suspicion in Apr. 11 general election is making huge ripples among Korean netizens. Correspondent Yang, revealing pictures taken on the scene, remarked “if you want to use these pictures, please identify the source explicitly. I want to take the full responsibility of the blog post if Saenuri party seeks legal actions against it.” Correspondent Yang worked for <Newsis>; now, he works as a freelance correspondent for news agencies such as ‘Money Today’ and ‘M1’.

Correspondent Yang described the circumstance at the vote-counting stadium in detail with his own pictures in a post on Apr. 12 titled <Full story of unsealed ballot boxes (with previously undisclosed materials)> of his blog. In it, he said “the full story of election-rigging controversy unfolds when an observer (Unified Progressive Party (UPP) official) of candidate Dong-young Chung who was overseeing the vote-counting got suspicious and raised an objection after having inspected ballot boxes closely. At that time, the vote-counting had already proceeded substantially.”

At the time of vote-counting, it was voting station 5 of Gaepo 1-dong that caused the alarm; it was the voting station of residents in Gooryong village, the archetypal shanty town of Gangnam. Although candidate Dong-young Chung’s side officially requested suspension of vote-counting, Election Management Commission (EMC), brushing the irregularities something trivial, pushed forward the counting still. The vote-counting finally suspended after the arrival of lawyer Cheol-woo Jang who had been summoned by an urgent call from candidate Chung’s side.

Correspondent Yang described “EMC announced that, aside from 1 ballot box that had been already opened, only 5 out of 17 had been problematic.” He then questioned “Then, were other 12 ballot boxes fine?” and pointed out “if any ballot sheets or ballot boxes turn out to be inappropriate, the vote itself is naturally illegitimate.”

Correspondent Yang then depicted the circumstance at that time “I, accompanying lawyer Cheol-woo Jang as the representative of candidate Dong-young Chung, managed to enter the vote-counting stadium. All other un-questioned ballot boxes were already opened and counted.”

Correspondent Yang explained “In fact, observers did not inspect all ballot boxes and it was possible that some of already counted ballot boxes could have been tampered. However, since they had been already counted, there was no way to check it.” and expressed his suspicion “The tally from already counted ballot boxes indicated that not a single resident in an apartment in Gaepo-dong had voted for opposition party’s candidate; how can’t I be suspicious in this circumstance?”

Correspondent Yang explained the circumstance at the time “On arrival, in a word, I was flabbergasted at the site of ballot boxes. There were 17 ballot boxes that were either unsealed or mismanagedly convoyed. Among 18 ballot boxes initially reported, the one from voting station 5 of Gaepo 1-dong had already been counted in the course of filing objection; 17 others were gathered in one side of the voting stadium.”

Correspondent Yang pointed out “The problematic ballot boxes made me think that someone must have hurriedly done something on them but could not wrap it up in time.”

Regarding the basic principle of ballot box handling, correspondent Yang said “The ballot hole in a ballot box should be sealed and officially stamped around the seal perimeter because someone can put in more votes into the hole if it is not sealed properly. So, ballot boxes should be sealed more tightly and completely to prevent fraudulent election.”

And correspondent Yang added “Though the ballot box is a paper box fragile to external impact, the ballot box should be taped perfectly and tapings should also be officially stamped around their perimeter. Then, the ballot box should be locked outside, be sealed using an official tape and be officially stamped.”

Then, correspondent yang revealed pictures he had taken of ballot boxes that caused suspicion.

Correspondent Yang explained “The lock is still open not closed. This is the ballot box that an official from EMC was caught by Yu-jeong Hwang, the secretary of candidate Dong-young Chung, while trying to lock up sneakily.”

He expressed his suspicion that “It seems highly likely that someone tried to do something on the ballot box but made a mistake not to lock it up properly due to lack of time.”

To another picture, correspondent Yang criticized EMC “This is a ballot box whose ballot hole is not sealed. There were two other ballot boxes like this, which makes me to suspect that more voting sheets could have been thrown in at will. Before discussing whether there was an election fraud or not, it is an unavoidable fact that vote holes were not sealed properly.”

Correspondent Yang pointed “At this point, we can notice the seriousness of the matter beyond a matter of simple glitch or happening. How can locks of ballot boxes be open? No one can understand it was a simple mistake by an EMC official.”

Showing a picture that seems like an EMC official, correspondent Yang indicated “though I got permission from lawyer Cheol-woo Jang, a legal representative, and the chairperson of commission, this person was very uncooperative; he even sabotaged me in taking pictures. Looked young, he was uncontrollable even with the permission from an official in charge and a legal representative.”

Besides, correspondent Yang expressed his suspicion “As many as 11 ballot boxes were not taped or official stamped around perimenter properly. It is likely that ballot boxes could have been replaced. Since voting sheets do not contain anything to identify their casters, we can suspect that as many voting sheets as they like could have been supplanted or replaced.”

Also, correspondent Yang showed a ballot box whose hole had been sealed but not stamped around the perimeter and blasted “Why did they forget to stamp the seal? Can this be an EMC official’s simple mistake? EMC said its official happened to make a mistake. How could he? He could have made as many mistakes as he wished on other things but how could he treat ballot boxes like this? Those boxes carry people’s precious opinions!”

He then added “How pressed has he been to make this kind of mistake? Suspicions snowball as I see those boxes.”

To another picture, correspondent Yang scoffed “This picture is, in a word, a comedy. It is sealed and tightly stamped around perimeter. So it looked like well-done(?) but, when looked closely, it simply makes me laugh. The lock should have been hanged on the ring completely but, in fact, was hanged shoddily and then locked.”

“So, easily speaking, one can peek into the ballot box without unlocking the lock once the sealed tapes were undone. They must have been very pressed. But, even in such a condition, you cannot wear panty on top of your trousers” correspondent Yang criticized EMC’s absurd behavior.

Correspondent Yang converyed the public opinion of Gangnam-2 constituency as follows “The public opinion of Gangnam-2 constituency was ‘Let’s change it this time.’ The public opinion of backwardly Gangnam-2 was changed this time due to the fraud, corruption and indifference of Saenuri party who has ruled last 25 years here. There were many who made up their mind to vote for the first time. The prevailing opinion was that it was only the candidate Dong-young Chung who would be of help to them with the support of mayor in reconstructing and redeveloping the area.”

He then added “Some may say ‘He (the ruling party candidate) would be elected anyhow even without such fraud. Why would they take such a risk?’ However, the ruling party candidate could not have been ignorant of the previously mentioned circumstance. Also, Gangnam-2 constituency is very symbolic. Some media say it can match 10 opposition party representatives.”

Correspondent Yang criticized “This is just a suspicion but would they just watch the whole thing although the opinion flowed the other direction? To Saenuri party, it must have been a constituency that should have been  tightly secured. Although I can understand their feelings, this is not right. If he gets elected like this, will he feel clean and justified? Things are beautiful only when they were fair and square.”

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