Under the Public Official Election Act of the Republic of Korea, only Korean nationals aged 25 or older may run for a local election. Those with foreign nationality are not allowed to be a candidate although they are entitled to vote in local elections three years after the acquisition of permanent residency. This means that there are no elected members of the city’s municipal council who are foreign-born or dual nationals. People with foreign nationality are entitled to take part in political parties. This means they can be actively engaged in political activities in the nation’s leading parties, for example as part of their multicultural committees, special committees for Koryo-saram, and special committees for migrants’ human rights, among others.
At city level, the Ansan City Ordinance on Non-nationals and Multicultural Families Support provides for the operation of a non-national’s Council. The council advises many different support projects and advocates on behalf of non-nationals. Currently the council consists of 19 members that represent China, Uzbekistan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mongolia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Cambodia.
Ansan City also runs a non-nationals Monitoring Group. This is not a compulsory committee to supervise public services, but its roles include: to understand developments and trends among non-nationals, collect their voices, survey the city’s administration for non-nationals, and make recommendations for improvement. Currently the group consists of 33 people representing Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, Russia, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, and Nepal.
Overall, non-nationals’ equal involvement in the city’s administration is guaranteed. They have the right to take part in residents’ engagement in public policy through, making policy suggestions, filing complaints or petitions, amongst other things. Non-nationals’ involvement in citizen-participatory budgeting is also institutionally guaranteed. They are involved in the Citizens Communication Committee and residents’ associations in each Neighbourhood. Finally, non-nationals who are deemed eligible under relevant laws, regulations and Ansan City ordinances are entitled to take part in local referendums and public recalls.
There are difficulties in evaluating the process of non-nationals’ involvement in decision making, but the city uses the rights and authorities bestowed on it to monitor how many people are involved and what their activities are.
Non-nationals have not been very active in key institutions or workplaces, but the recently organised Immigrant Trade Union, covering the Seoul, Gyeonggi and Incheon regions, has non-national workers in Ansan as part of its members. The union is working to claim job security, human rights security, and the abolition of the employment permit system.
Ansan City recommends relevant committees to appoint women as members in at least 40% of cases. The abovementioned non-national residents’ council is also subject to this recommendation, and 10 out of 19 committee members are females, accounting for 53% of all members.