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Old clip shared as S. Korea politician’s ‘Chinese campaign speech for 2024 elections’

In World
April 09, 2024

A video showing a member of South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party delivering a campaign speech in Chinese was repeatedly shared in a misleading context ahead of the country’s crucial legislative elections in April 2024. Critics of the party suggested the video showed an effort to shore up support from foreign residents who can vote in local elections but not in the upcoming national poll. However, an analysis of the video found it actually showed a candidate campaigning for a local post in 2022.

The video was shared on Facebook on April 2, 2024. It shows a woman speaking in Mandarin to campaign for the Democratic Party.

“Anyone with South Korean citizenship or residency status should pack their IDs and cast their votes for the Democratic Party at their nearest polling station,” Korean subtitles to her speech say.

The post’s caption translates as: “Democratic Party proportional representative candidate Hwang Eun-hwa, a naturalised Chinese person, campaigning in Chinese, not Korean.”

It included hashtags such as “naturalised” and “parliamentary elections”.

The post surfaced a week before South Korea’s national elections on April 10 which will determine control of the country’s parliament — held by the opposition since 2016.

The vote is widely seen as a referendum on President Yoon Suk Yeol and whether he can advance his socially conservative agenda.

<span>Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post. Captured April 8, 2024</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/B4iPNfTFLgcOpVtr8wwJsg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0MzI-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/60f7758486d2ce96eb6f9a12ecd8d3bf”><noscript><img alt=Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post. Captured April 8, 2024” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/B4iPNfTFLgcOpVtr8wwJsg–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE0MzI-/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/60f7758486d2ce96eb6f9a12ecd8d3bf” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post. Captured April 8, 2024

The clip was also shared in posts on multiple South Korean forums including here and here, as well as on YouTube.

“This shows the Democratic Party depends on votes from the Chinese to win this general election,” one user commented.

“This is proof of the Chinese Communist Party meddling in the general election,” another said.

Foreign nationals do not have voting rights in South Korea’s parliamentary or presidential elections, according to the country’s National Election Commission (NEC).

Those who have been residents for more than three years are legally allowed to vote in local elections (archived link).

Local council

AFP was not able to find the source of Hwang’s speech but an analysis of the video in the posts found it showed her campaigning for a local seat, not the upcoming national elections.

From the video’s one-second mark, the subtitles say: “Tomorrow is South Korea’s nationwide local election early voting day.” Korean captions overlaid in the video also state Hwang is a “proportional representative candidate for city council”.

A keyword search for her name found Hwang is a member of the city council in Ansan city — and was elected in a local poll on June 1, 2022 when she ran on a Democratic Party ticket as a local council proportional representative (archived links here and here).

News media here and here reported she was the first naturalised South Korean citizen to be elected to a local government seat in Ansan, which has a high foreigner and foreign-born population (archived links here and here).

A frame shown in the video corresponds to an image on Naver Maps from May 2022 of a bank in Ansan’s Wongok-dong, a neighbourhood with a large Chinese population (archived link).

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video circulating online (left) and the image from Naver Maps (right) with the corresponding features highlighted:

<span>Screenshot comparison</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/TDhK10GhfXkTddTVbeqf_Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTIyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/c59bbe0296f251d1de2ab8fdd3030555″><noscript><img alt=Screenshot comparison” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/TDhK10GhfXkTddTVbeqf_Q–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTIyMw–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/c59bbe0296f251d1de2ab8fdd3030555″ class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot comparison

A more recent image of the location from February 2023 showed Korean-language signages earlier attached on the bank’s entrance and window appeared to be removed (archived link).

Below is a screenshot of images taken from Naver Maps from May 2022 (left) and February 2023 (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison</span>” data-src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/3bq3EEsK0MrDQeRoC9NMWA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE5NA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/b22891efc4b7e480fa1b11383630d46e”><noscript><img alt=Screenshot comparison” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/3bq3EEsK0MrDQeRoC9NMWA–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTE5NA–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/afp_factcheck_us_713/b22891efc4b7e480fa1b11383630d46e” class=”caas-img”>

Screenshot comparison

Official records from election agency NEC and the Democratic Party’s own list of candidates for 2024 both did not include Hwang (archived link here and here).

Responding to the misleading posts, Hwang told AFP on April 8: “The captions in the clip clearly say that I was a candidate for city council, so people should not mistake this as a recent clip.”

Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung has been a frequent target of misinformation ahead of the elections — including those that accused him of being subservient to China — which AFP debunked here and here.

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