Koreans in US Vote for Korea’s Next President

Voting at C. Castle Group “Reception House” on April 25 (Photo via The Korea Times)

On April 25, the first floor in C. Castle Group’s “Reception House” [on Northern Boulevard in Flushing] was crowded thanks to the many Korean voters who came to exercise their right to vote in the 19th presidential election in Korea.

Koreans were eager to “exercise sovereignty” as Korean citizens, from those in their 70s and 80s, like an elderly woman who hasn’t voted for 30 years, to people in their 30s, like the international student who woke up early and came to the polling station.

Taehyun Shin, 31, who is in the doctoral program at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “I couldn’t participate in a candlelight rally. Hopeful for a transfer of power, I drove for two hours and participated in the first overseas election in my life. I hope that the presidential candidate, who is honest and caring for the lives of ordinary people, will be elected.”

Jaegoo Kang, 30, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut, demonstrated his resolve by taking a three-hour train ride to visit the polling station. “I was indifferent to politics. But I decided to participate in the voting when I saw the political situation in Korea. I hope that the next president will be a person in good communication with the people,” said Kang.

Joonyoung Hong, who also lives in Connecticut, left home early in the morning with his wife and two children. He said: “I want to show my kids, who were born in the U.S., how the president is elected in Korea.”

Most of the voters were in their 30s to 50s, but there were a few in their 70s and 80s.

Jeongja Park, 86, who is the oldest woman among the voters who voted on this day, said: “I am worried because the country is confusing [politically]. I think Park Geun-hye was impeached because of certain powers. As a conservative Taeguk patriot [people who insist that President Park is innocent], I voted with concerns for my country in mind.” Another older woman, Baeoe Lim, 78, who lives in Flushing, said: “I haven’t voted since I immigrated in 1997 to the U.S. However, I decided to vote in the presidential election because the country is so confusing and I was worried about a temporary vacuum in the government.”

Jeongho Yu, the first voter in New York polling station

On the day, Jeongho Yu, who lives in Jericho, Long Island, was the first voter. He waited 30 minutes before the vote began. Yu smiled and said: “I hope that Korea’s political situation becomes stabilized soon. That’s why I came here early in the morning. I didn’t expect to be the first voter at the New York polling station. I am glad that I am the first.”

Woomin Lee and Sangmi Lee, who voted before heading to the airport. (Photo via The Korea Times)

Voting before going to the airport

Soon-to-be married couple, Woomin Lee and Sangmi Lee, who live in Little Falls, New Jersey, visited the polling station with three suitcases. After they voted, they headed to JFK International Airport to go to Korea. On May 3, they will get married in Korea. There is a rule that if someone enters Korea after April 25, they can’t vote in Korea. That’s why they exercised the right to vote before they headed to the airport. Woomin Lee said: “I think this presidential election is going to have a meaningful significance in Korea, so I decided to vote before I go back to Korea to get married.”

Necessary papers

Some people who visited the overseas polling station couldn’t vote. Chulhee Park, who lives in Flushing, needed to return to his house because his permanent residency expired in February. Park said: “I asked to renew my permanent residency and I forgot to bring the documents I received. I will bring [them] again and vote.” Heeseok Kim, who lives in Bayside, Queens, also went back to his house because he didn’t bring his original visa document. He said: “I thought I could vote if I have just my passport. I will be back this weekend with the [needed] document.”

Business trip to New York from LA

Some overseas voters were voting during their business trips. Jaehak Kim, who lives in Fullerton, California, said: “I came to New York from Los Angeles for a business trip and I think it is very convenient to be able to vote here [rather than in LA]. I am not living in Korea, but I hope that a candidate, who can handle the confusing situation well will be elected.” Hyeryung Kang who lives in Seoul, Korea, said: “I traveled to New York and was scheduled to arrive in Korea on the day of the vote [May 9]. So I voted in New York. I hope many Koreans in New York will vote during the remaining voting period.”

Precious vote

Sungkyum Lee, who lives in Flushing, pushed a 9-month-old baby in a stroller and visited the polling station. “I think if you are a Korean citizen, you should vote. When I left Korea and came here, I decided not to go back to Korea again. I hope the next president can make a Korea that has a future.”

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