Severity: Warning Alert

Security: General election to be held in South Korea April 15. Campaign events likely to prompt localized disruptions. Protests possible.

This alert affects South Korea

This alert began 05 Apr 2020 20:29 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: General election
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Date: April 15
  • Impact: Localized disruptions, increased security, business closures

Summary
South Korea will hold a general election on April 15, with voters going to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly. The South Korean government has declared a holiday on April 15 to increase voter turnout; widespread government office and business closures are likely on election day.

While events have generally been sparsely attended due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, street campaign gatherings, including rallies, are set to continue through April 14. Some of these events could attract thousands of people and prompt significant localized transport delays, especially in Seoul and other urban centers. Authorities will likely boost security during major campaign events, especially those taking place in the capital and other major cities. Most campaign events will remain largely peaceful, though minor clashes between rival activists, or between demonstrators and police, cannot be ruled out.

Minor protests and security disturbances are possible during and after the vote, especially if there are any perceived irregularities. Political gatherings could occur after polling stations close, or once the vote results are announced. Officials will implement heightened security measures near polling places nationwide April 15. Transport disruptions may occur near polling stations during the vote.

Background and Analysis
The April 15 election to choose the members of the 21st National Assembly will serve as a test of public sentiment regarding President Moon Jae-in's response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It will be the first election since Moon and his Democratic Party implemented electoral reforms in late 2019. The reforms brought about marginal changes to the country's mixed voting system, which contains elements of first-past-the-post and proportional representation based on party preference lists. Conservative opposition parties tried to block the reforms, saying the move would unfairly benefit the ruling party.

Advice
Avoid all political gatherings as a precaution. Monitor local media for campaign event announcements. Expect road closures, traffic congestion, and crowded public transportation during campaign events and voting, especially in Seoul and other urban areas; plan alternative routes.