Seoul Free School Meal Ordinance Question, 2011

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A Seoul Free School Meal Ordinance Question was voted on by residents of the city of Seoul in South Korea on August 24, 2011.

DefeateddThis measure was defeated because it only got 25.7% participation when it needed 33%.[1]


This question was brought forth by a petition drive by an anti-welfare group in the city who collected 800,000 signatures, only 418,000 valid signatures were needed to validate the petition. The measure sought to reverse the free meal ordinance which was passed by city officials last year and allowed for free meals at all elementary schools in the city after March 2011.[2] The Mayor of the city had been against the free lunch program, stating that it was a type of welfare system and the money being used to give the free lunches should be used for other more important things. The school lunches are provided for any student that wants them, regardless of parental finances. The rest of the city council though supported the free lunches.[3]

In order to verify those signatures submitted, a civic group had pledged to go through all the submitted signatures to ensure they are valid. Suspicions have arisen that the group who collected the signatures did not get all that was needed. The group verifying the signatures is in favor of the free meal program and has urged the city council to spend the money which would go to holding the election, near $16.9 million, on free meals instead.[4] The Court has been asked to review the measure for its validity. Those against the measure brought this to the court, wanting it removed from being voted on because of the invalid signature count.[5]

On July 13, the government announced that it felt that there were enough signature collected to go ahead with the referendum.[6]

In order for this vote to be valid, there had to be a turnout rate of at least 33 percent of the city's eligible voters. Though this was the first referendum held in Seoul, three previous elections had been held in different cities in South Korea and none reached the 33 percent majority needed to be valid.[7]

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