In accordance with Article 114 of the Constitution, the Election Commission was established as an independent constitutional agency compatible with the National Assembly, the government, courts and the Constitutional Court of Korea for the purpose of managing elections and national referendums fairly and dealing with administrative affairs concerning political parties and political funds.
The National Election Commission (NEC) was established based on the self-examination of the illegal election held on March 15, 1960 and became a constitutional agency following the enactment of the Fifth Constitutional Amendment during the Third Republic of Korea. The term and status of each Election Commissioner is strictly guaranteed as prescribed by the Constitution and Act to ensure fair execution of duties without any external interference or being affected.
Guaranteeing the Impartiality
The Election Commission is a representative organization composed of members endorsed by the National Assembly or the court and neutral individuals known for their high academic and ethical standards such as justices of the court, lawyers or educators. The commissioners shall not join a political party or participate in politics to remain impartial.
2004~ Creating an Atmosphere of Clean and Fair Elections
In 2004, in preparation for the 17th National Assembly election, local district political parties were abolished and election campaign methods such as through political rallies were removed to eradicate the cause of monetary elections. The system was reformed, including the maximum KRW 50 million reward system for those reporting electoral crimes and the 50 times penalty system against those receiving money or monetary gifts. These initiatives have contributed to holding the 17th National Assembly election in the fairest manner in history. In addition, the Election Commission established the Election Broadcasting Debates Commission along with the Internet Election News Deliberation Commission to invigorate debates/discussions, monitor the Internet media for fair coverage and reinforce its authority by requesting an access of reading & submission of communication materials, creating an authority to investigate political fund related crimes and introducing the Cyber Surveillance Units. The Election Commission has managed Residents’ Referendums since 2004, entrusted elections such as elections for the head of Forestry, Agricultural, Fisheries and Livestock Cooperatives as well as elections for the President of National Universities since 2005 and Residents’ Recall Votes since 2006. The Election Commissions are now striving to respond to the rapidly changing 21st century, the Information Age and to gain trust from political parties, candidates and the public.
1994~2003 Building the Unified Election Management System
In 1994 the NEC introduced new systems of elections, political parties and political funds in order to conduct elections in a fair and economical way, such as by integrating every electoral law that applies to different elections into one called the ”Public Official Election Act.”
The Election Commissions now have authority to investigate into election expenses, to issue an order to demolish, collect, close down illegal facilities and stop delivering illegal election campaign leaflets/pamphlets and to request a correction of illegal election campaign leaflets/pamphlets.
The Election Commissions have secured authority to interrogate and investigate into those involved in electoral crimes, collect evidences and request to accompany or summon to appear. The Election Commissions have provided education on democratic citizenship for not only political parties and candidates but also for the public since 1996 and have managed elections for Si/Do Board of Education and Superintendents of Education to lay the ground for fair elections since 2000.
1987~1993 Regulation of Illegal Election Campaigns
As a direct presidential election system was introduced since the 13th Presidential Election and democracy was developed, freedom of election campaign increased followed by illegal activities and evasions of the law becoming prevalent. As a result, the Election Commissions started to strictly crackdown and regulate election law violations to ensure fairness in elections through competition and obtained public trust. The Election Commissions continuously strengthened enforcement actions to oversee all illegal election campaigns by expanding the scope of their authority to impose an order to stop and correct all violations. In 1987, internal regulations were established to ensure the Election Commissions’ authority to enact regulations. In 1992, the status of the Secretariat was elevated from the Vice-Minister level to the State Minister level to best comply with its purposes and roles.
1963~1986 Strict Management of Legal Election Campaigns Procedure
During the first stage, the Election Commissions strictly managed elections and referendums in accordance with each electoral law and the National Referendum Act and focused heavily on enhancing voters’ awareness of sovereignty. The status that the NEC had at the time of establishment was elevated from the First Secretariat to the Vice-Minister level in 1973.
1963. 1.21 Establishment
Constitutional National Assembly election on May 10, 1948 was the first election where voting was conducted by universal, equal, direct and secret ballot according to democratic procedures. Since the establishment of the government, ‘Election Committee’ within the executive branch had been responsible for election affairs. However the Election Committee had difficulty ensuring independence and fairness, which led to the establishment of the Election Commission on January 21, 1963 based on the Fifth Constitutional Amendment during the Third Republic of Korea.