How Korean Startups Use Tech Tools To Raise Political Awareness

3 min read

South Korea has parliamentary elections on April 13th, and these startups are helping to better inform voters and encourage voter participation by leveraging the nation’s mobile-savvy citizens.

South Korea’s voter turnout stood at a record of 75.84% in 2012, when Park Geun-hye won the presidential elections. The country now has 21 parties on proportional representation, which makes it more confusing for voters to choose candidates and supporting parties.

The Korean CrunchBase For Candidates 

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MyCandidates provides background about each candidates

Political candidate database platform MyCandidates details data on every candidate in the Korean congressional election to help Korean citizens get to know their candidates better. MyCandidates founder Rebekah Kang attended campaigns in 2010 to help a family member campaign for council election, when she observed that voters appeared apathetic and alienated from candidates. She founded MyCandidates to narrow the gap.

“I had to pass out business cards to voters, even though they had no interest in politics at all,” Kang told TechNode.

MyCandidates was acquired by Washington D.C. based FiscalNote last year, which provides legislative and regulatory tracking tools as well as analytics to clients. FiscalNote raised $10 million USD from China’s Renren, bringing their total funding amount to just over $28 million USD. Other investors include Singapore’s Temasek Holdings and San Francisco-based Visionnaire Ventures.

“We always blame politicians, but it’s us who voted for them. We need to keep eye on them before and after the vote,” says Ms. Kang.

Gamifying Voter Decisions

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PingKorea visually shows which candidate matches individual’s politic opinion

WAGL (We All Govern Lab), aims to engage more people in the political decision-making process through public discussions and experiments. Developers of WAGL created P!NG Korea, an application and website provides 20 questionnaires on controversial issues in South Korea, including passing anti-terror lawslabor laws, and rewriting history books to help voters see where their allegiances lie.

“It’s hard to talk about politics to voters who are indifferent to elections. If we approach them through the application, voters can go through the questionnaires and review 20 key issues in this election in less than five minutes,” JK Suh, manager at P!NGKorea told TechNode. “Then we visually present the political positions of 21 Korean parties along with the position of the user to improve the decision making process.”

Mr. Suh studied International Relations in the UK, and observed how the country was using Voter Advice Application for elections.”It was a simple method that any country could apply into their elections. I thought why can’t we adopt it,” Mr. Suh says.

P!NGKorea adheres to the Voting Advice Applications on Lausanne Declaration, a set of standards adopted by VAAs (Voting Advice Applications) in Germany, Netherlands and the UK to provide valuable information about candidates and parties. The project is self-funded and is not for commercial purposes, says Mr. Suh. After the election, the company will analyze election data. In the long term, they also plan to start a new project based on drawing up legislative bills.

Twitter For Political Discussions

'Debating and Voting for policy' page on Parti
‘Debating and Voting for policy’ page on Parti

Parti is an open platform for everyone to talk about candidates. The founder of Parti, Ohyeon Kweon, was previously a developer for popular Korean portal Daum, where he helped develop Daum Agora, an online opinion sharing community.

When in a 2008 US beef protest, which drew 1,400,000 South Koreans together, Mr. Kweon observed the mass mobilization online.

“I wanted to start the technical approach to cover political issues. I thought it would be difficult for Daum to wholly focus on politics, so I left the company. It was at that time that I heard about online platforms like Democracy OS and Podemos in Spain,” Mr. Kweon, founder of Parti told TechNode.

Parti aims to build a democratic platform where people can share ideas about major issues in Korea. People can retweet an article or another person’s tweet on issues.

“You can discuss issues on Twitter and Facebook, but once posted it’s easily forgotten. That’s why we focused on archiving and categorizing same issues together, so that people can keep on discussing,” Mr. Kweon said.

After running the test service for one month, the company is now preparing to launch Parti 1.0 and bring up ideas shared in the platform to actually present a policy to the Congress in one or two years.

“Every person has one or two issues that they think it matters to them and the society. We wanted their attention, so that they are no longer indifferent about politics, and try to be part of it by sharing their ideas.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock, MyCandidates, WAGL and Parti