Allegations of fraud in South Korean elections called warning on new voting technologies

by WorldTribune Staff, May 8, 2020

Suspicions of election fraud arose last month after South Korea’s general election, a report said.

The ruling party of leftist President Moon Jae-In won by a landslide in a parliamentary election last month that attracted the highest voter turn out in 28 years, despite being held during the coronavirus pandemic.

Min Kyun-Wook, center. The signs read: ‘Citizens want to know the truth.’ / East Asia Research Center

Particular attention was paid to “a new field of digital fraud involving vote counting machines, computer hardware and software, and Huawei information network telecommunications equipment,” Tara O noted in a May 8 analysis for East Asia Research Center.

South Korea’s National Election Commission (NEC) chose LG U+ 5G, which uses Huawei equipment, to provide Internet and WiFi for handling the pre-vote ballots.

Meanwhile, “the winning party is also behaving oddly,” Tara O wrote. “It is remarkable by how muted the reaction has been from the Democratic Party of Korea. Yang Jung-Cheol, the head of the Democratic Party of Korea’s think tank Institute for Democracy, which is responsible for the party’s election strategy, should have been elated at such a sweeping election victory, but was not. Yang, who is also President Moon Jae-In’s confidant, instead said he was terrified at the outcome and quickly resigned.”

When a journalist pointed out that he played the most important role in this election and asked for a comment, “Yang’s answer was strange and cryptic,” Tara O noted.

Yang answered: “I’m terrified and afraid because they made such an enormous outcome (landslide victory for his party),” and expressed his desire to resign his position as the head of Institute for Democracy. Further, he expressed, “I’ll return to the backwaters and will stay quietly as if to wait for a sunset.”

According to final results from the April 15 election, Moon’s Democratic Party won 180 of the 300 seats in the National Assembly, boosting the party’s seats by 60.This is the biggest win by any party since the nation’s constitution was established in 1987.

“Instead of establishing its own secured network, which it could have had by using the very secure Gwangju/Daejeon Information Data Center (IDC), NEC chose an unsecured network, and worse, used a network that uses Huawei equipment notorious for control by China,” Taro O noted.

It is possible the servers used at the election sites could have been “connected to servers in China (or elsewhere), and the user on that end in China can send the instructions to the central server in South Korea, which in turn sends a message to the vote counting machines,” the analysis said.

The election process and outcome “did not inspire confidence among the voters, but raised questions about them, and this is the real problem,” Tara O wrote. “In that case, steps should be taken to restore the confidence, such as conducting an investigation of the election similar to that of the OAS model, recount the votes, and change the election law or procedures to address the gaps and flaws in the election process to be applied to future elections.”

Additionally, “other democracies should take note about the increased potential for election fraud with the advent of new technology and procedures, and be careful about the vote counting machine system and the early voting process,” Tara O wrote.

“Free and fair elections are too important to liberal democracy for the citizens to not demand integrity and transparency of the election process, and for the authorities to not take measures to enhance trust in the election system.”

National Assemblyman Min Kyung-Wook, United Future Party, on April 28 filed with the Yeonsu District Court in Incheon to preserve the election materials for further investigations. Min lost by 2,893 votes to Democratic Party of Korea’s Jung Il-Yong. (The elected candidates will take their seats as of May 30.)

“The court granted preserving the ballots, but not the server and other information and communications gear,” Tara O noted.

Others, such as the Christian Liberty Unification Party, also submitted a request with the court to preserve the servers and other election materials.

The servers used for the election are rented from a contractor and they were reportedly to be destroyed on May 1.

Those seeking an investigation said that by rejecting the request to preserve the servers and other communications equipment gear, the judge’s decision was tantamount to destroying the evidence.

Additionally, “the Yeonsu District Election Commission handed over the same day ballots, but defied the court order and refused to provide early-vote ballots,” Tara O noted. “Thus, the actions of the judge and the local election commission also raise suspicions that erodes the public confidence in the election process and outcome.”

The percentage of early votes/mail-in votes in the April election was high at 26.69 percent, “and in many cases, reversed the outcome on the election day,” Tara O noted. “The ruling Deobureo Minjoo Party (Democratic Party of Korea) and its satellite party Deobureo Simin Party together won by a landslide, gaining 180 seats (of 300 seats), which is a simple majority to change laws at will, except for the few that require a super majority (two-thirds), such as the Constitution.”

Citizens’ Solidarity for Fair Elections posted stickers urging citizens to vote on the actual election day, not early-vote, due to concerns about the security and the break in the chain of custody of the early vote ballots, the report noted. But the NEC dismissed the group’s concerns, and instead sued the group for “distributing false facts.”

Lee Geun-Hyung, the Strategy and Planning Committee Chair of the Democratic Party of Korea, who also played a crucial role in the election strategy and outcome, also said he is leaving the position and the party, posting on his Facebook page: “I’m leaving with heavy weights off my shoulders.”

Yang also said “the reason we were able to come this far is due to courage and wisdom of party leader Lee Hae-Chan … our party will pay respect to his leadership for a long time.”

Lee Hae-Chan “also did not express great joy, despite his party winning such an unprecedented number of seats,” Tara O noted. “His expression was serious, and he said “as I look at the election results, I feel the heavy burden of responsibility, rather than the joy of victory.”

Tara O added that neither Lee Hae-Cha “nor Lee In-Yong (the floor leader) nor Lee Nak-yeon (the Prime Minister who won a seat in the Jongno District) showed joy, not even a smile, which is very odd for the winning party.”

Lee talked of his party seizing power for 20 years, and later increased it to 50 years. In July 2019, Yang went to Beijing to sign an agreement between the Democratic Party of Korea’s Institute for Democracy and the Communist Party of China’s party school, “perhaps to learn the secrets of the longevity of one party rule,” Tara O wrote.

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