Feb. 23, 2022
Contact: Marcus Wilkins, firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Missouri’s strong connection to South Korea has played a major role in Columbia’s selection as an overseas polling location for the nation’s upcoming presidential election. Columbia joins major Midwestern metropolitan cities — including Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis — where South Koreans who have registered for absentee voting can cast their ballots. Voting takes place Feb. 25-27, 2022, at the MU Assessment Resource Center.
There are 47,208 South Korean voters in the U.S. registered for overseas absentee voting with about 250 in Missouri and 50 in Kansas. Mizzou’s alumni base in South Korea is its largest among foreign countries, and there are currently 160 students and visiting scholars at MU.
Yoorim Pyun, a visiting scholar at Mizzou who lives in Columbia with her two young children, works for the Korea Fair Trade Commission based in Sejong City.
“This year, there are a lot of important political issues at stake, and I really wanted to make my voice heard,” said Pyun, whose husband lives and works in South Korea. “I thought I would have to travel to Chicago to cast my ballot, but my family’s schedule made it a headache. I have a friend in Nebraska who will drive here, too. This is much more convenient.”
Columbia’s selection is the latest chapter of a connection that dates back nearly 70 years, says Sang Kim, director of the MU Asian Affairs Center. At the end of Harry S. Truman’s presidency in 1953, he asked MU administrators to waive tuition for South Korean students. At the time, the South Korean government handpicked the top students to study abroad.
“It’s a legacy that led to children and even grandchildren of MU’s early Korean students coming to Columbia,” Kim said.
Kim also credits MU’s sustained commitment to cultural exchange opportunities through International Programs, the Asian Affairs Center and the Korean Student Association for this landmark moment. The trio has maintained close contact with the Korean Consulate General Office in Chicago.
“I am grateful that MU was on the short list when the consulate was assessing where to place an additional polling site in the Midwest,” Kim said.
The Columbia polling location will be staffed primarily by Mizzou visiting scholars and students from South Korea — six volunteers working each day of the election and 18 total.
“An election is like a festival of the democratic process, and I’m excited to be taking part in it,” said Ikhee Cho, a public affairs doctoral candidate from Seoul and an election volunteer. “This will be a unique experience, and it’s a way for me to do something for my country.”