Residents' Referendum

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Residents' Referendum

  • Definition

    A Residents' Referendum is a system that allows residents to get involved in the process of local governments making decisions on major policies. Currently, most countries adopt the representative system in which decision-making and execution are performed by the local governments composed of representatives elected through direct elections by residents. However, if the representatives elected through direct elections make a decision contrary to the residents' opinions or adopt policies disturbing the development of the area, residents' political opinions or interests may not actually be reflected in the process of local autonomy.
    Thus, a Residents' Referendum supplements the disadvantages of the representative system, a type of direct democratic system, reflect residents' opinions in the local autonomy process to allow residents to politically participate in the process, checks policy decisions, and guarantees the validity of the policy decisions. To keep the fairness and objectivity, guarantee the fair management of Residents' Referendum, and prescribe necessary items such as the subject, voters qualification and confirmation process , the「Residents' Referendum Law」was formulated on Jan 29, 2004 as the Law No. 7124.

  • Overview of Residents' Referendum
    • Management Basis

      In accordance with the「Residents' Referendum Law」formulated on Jan. 29, 2004, Residents' Referendum duties shall be assumed respectively by Si/Do and Gu/Si/Gun Election Commissions. Thus, starting from the Residents' Referendum to reorganize the administrative structure of Jeju on Jul. 27, 2005, the Election Commission has managed three Residents' Referendums like one for integrating Cheongju and Cheongwon in Chungcheongbuk-do and for attracting a medium/low level radioactive waste disposal system (hereinafter referred to as 'radioactive waste disposal system').

    • Subject of Residents' Referendum

      Subjects of Residents' Referendums are important policies heavily burdening or significantly affecting residents such as change of names and areas, the integration and abolition of administrative districts, the installation/management of public facilities and resident's welfare/safety. Those policies are to be prescribed as ordinances of local governments (Article 7 and 8).

    • Request for Residents' Referendum

      A request by residents for holding a Residents' Referendum requires a consensus by 5% - 20% of eligible voters. A request by local council is valid when more than 50% of local council members are present and more than 66.6% of those in attendance agree.
      A request by the head of local government is valid when over 50% of local council members enrolled are present and over 50% of those in attendance agree, in which case the head is authorized to hold a Residents' Referendum.
      In addition, through a request to hold a Residents' Referendum by the head of national government authority, a Residents' Referendum can be held (Article 8 and 9).

    • Announcement of Point of Request

      If the head of local government notifies the national government authority of the acceptance of a proposal for Residents' Referendum, if it is admitted that a request for Residents' Referendum by residents or local council is legitimate, or if a proposal of the head of local government is accepted by local council to hold a Residents' Referendum. The Head of local government shall declare a Residents' Referendum to be held and announce the date and agenda for the Residents' Referendum no later than 7 days after the declaration of a Residents' Referendum being held. Note that if the head of local government or local council makes a decision that accepts the purpose of a request for a Residents' Referendum, the vote will not occur (Article 13).

    • Decision on Dates for Residents' Referendum

      Heads of the local government shall decide the date for Residents' Referendum through a discussion with the competent Election Commission from 20 to 30 days after the date the Residents' Referendum has been announced. Note that if an election for public office is held in the entire/partial district according to the「Public Official Election Act」, the Residents' Referendum cannot be held from 60 days before Election Day for public office to Election Day (Article 14).

    • Preparation of Electoral Register

      A person whose age is nineteen or more and who is registered as a resident in the district as of the proposed date for Residents' Referendum has the right to vote. In addition, a foreigner whose age is nineteen or more and who is registered as a resident in the district or who has permanent residence has the right to vote (Article 5).

    • Residents' Referendum Campaigns

      A Residents' Referendum campaign allows voters either to agree or disagree on the issue of a Residents' Referendum and allows voters to select one of the two issues to be handled through Residents' Referendum (Article 20).
      A Residents' Referendum campaign is allowed from the day a Residents' Referendum is announced to be held to one day before the Residents' Referendum date.

    • Confirmation of Results of Residents' Referendum

      An agenda is selected if more than 1/3 of the eligible voters cast their votes and voting Yes or No to the agenda gains a majority vote. Note that if the total votes are less than 1/3 of the eligible voters, and if the same number of valid votes have been cast for Yes and No to the agenda, neither approval nor disapproval of the agenda shall be adopted or neither of the agendas shall be selected. In addition, if the number of voters is less than 1/3 of the eligible voters, ballots will not be counted (Article 24).

  • Residents' Referendum Held in the Past

    Since the「Residents' Referendum Law」was formulated on Jan. 29, 2004, the Election Commission has managed three Residents' Referendums. The first Residents' Referendum was held on Jul. 27, 2005 to collect opinions of the residents on reorganizing the administrative structure of Jeju). Residents may have selected a plan of maintaining the current status (gradual plan) or changing to a metropolitan system (innovative plan).
    The election was the first Residents' Referendum in Korea through which the central government, the media, social groups, and other local governments showed their lots of interests in the vote. 147,656 out of 402,003 who were eligible to participate in the Residents' Referendum cast their votes (turnout of 36.7%), and it turned out that people preferred the plan of changing to metropolitan system (82,919, 57%) instead of the plan of maintaining the current status (62.469, 43%).
    The second Residents' Referendum was held on Sep. 29, 2005 to determine whether or not to integrate Cheongju and Cheongwon of Chungcheongbuk-do. One third of the voters residing in Cheongju and Cheongwon cast their votes, and less than half of the residents in Cheongwon (46.5%) agreed on the integration.
    Thus, the integration plan failed. The third Residents' Referendum was held on Nov. 2, 2005 to select an area for locating a radioactive waste disposal system in Gunsan in Jeollabuk-do, and Pohang, Kyeongju, and Yeongdeok in Gyeongsangbuk-do.
    Residents were required to select Yes to attract the facility and No to oppose the attraction of the facility.
    Among the areas where over 50% of the residents agreed on the attraction, one with the highest poll in favor of attracting the facility was selected. One third of the residents in the four areas cast their votes. The area with the highest rate of approval was Kyeogju (89.5%).

    Voter Turnout
    Name Area Turnout Result (%) Confirmation
    Reorganization of Administrative Structure of Jeju
    (July 27, 2005)
    All areas of Jeju 36.7% Metropolitan system (57%)
    Current system (43%)
    Metropolitan system
    Integration between Cheongju-si and Cheongwon-gun
    (Sep. 29, 2005)
    Cheongju-si and Cheongwon-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do Cheongju 35.5% Yes (91.3%)
    No (8.7%)
    Failed (Cheongwon disagreed on the issue.)
    Cheongwon 42.2% Yes (46.5%)
    No (53.5%)
    Medium/Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal System
    (Nov. 2, 2005)
    Gunsan, Jeollabuk-do Gunsan 70.2% Yes (84.4%)
    No (15.6%)
    Kyeongju selected
    Pohang 47.7% Yes (67.5%)
    No (32.5%)
    Kyeongju 70.8% Yes (89.5%)
    No (10.5%)
    Youngdeok 80.2% Yes (79.3%)
    No (20.7%)
    Free meals for primary/secondary school students
    (Aug. 24, 2011)
    Seoul 25.7%   Ballots were not counted as less than a third of the eligible voters cast votes
    Selection of a site for Pyeongeun-myeon's Office
    (Dec. 7, 2011)
    39.2% Pyeongeun-ri (79.3%)
    Oun-ri (20.7%)
    Pyeongeun-ri selected
    Integration between Cheongju-si and Cheongwon-gun
    (June 27, 2012)
    Cheongwon-gun, Chungcheongbuk-do 36.8% Yes (79.0%)
    No (21.0%)
    Cheongwon-gun agreed on the issue