After the 1990s, the voting rate of university students and people in their twenties was recorded as being poor and they were unconcerned with politics and social problems. At every local election the voting rate of people in their twenties has always been the lowest. In the 2006 local election the voting rate of those in their twenties was 33.9%. In the 2008 18th general election the rate went down to 19.3%. The voting rate of the young generation has always mattered socially.
In the 5th Nationwide Local Elections on June 2nd, 2010, the government is determined to improve the voting rate among the twenties. It has implemented on-line as well as street campaigns in order to aid in this process. A common feature of these programs is the emphasis of the necessity of participating in the voting system. They think that the best way to improve the voting percentage is to positively advertize the idea that everyone can have a voice in the government by voting.
People in their twenties can spread their influence in the Local Elections on June 2nd, 2010 as a starting point. Let’s look into reactions of the twenties voting in the local elections.
People in their twenties have been regarded as the “generation of unconcerned election” by the older generation. These days they are interested in getting a job and acquiring their own experience rather than participating in politics and elections. It is because of the economic deadlock and job shortage. In the 1970s and 80s, student movements were commonplace. Gradually students in the 90s were only concerned with their jobs and credit issues. In the last decade they have focused on a person’s right to live and be free. By viewing the student’s reactions at the local elections on June 2nd, 2010 the young have begun to take elections seriously.
A Dongguk University professor of Public Administration said, “when our country had a dictatorial government people could not criticize or join in government decisions freely. As the system began changing people started to request to participate.” One of the ways in which citizens can participate in government is by voting. Even though the twenties voting rate is currently very low, however, their attitude is changing and they realize that there are some issues which can only be addressed by participating in the national vote.
It is hard to find the election pledges to increase the 20s vote and iron out the realistic difficulties related to making a living such as employment, the youth housing problem and school tuition. Thinking that voting doesn't help to solve their problems directly, the twenties don't feel the necessity of voting. They would rather study to find work or take a part time job to pay for tuition rather than take interest in an election and vote. There are some younger candidates running in the upcoming election with pledges to meet the demands of their generation. "I am running for election to solve the problems that I also suffered," said Seong-ho Choo, a student of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. "Before running in the election, I had a hard time because of the high price of tuition. No matter what I said or how I tried to make suggestions to politicians, there was no response or effort to take care of the problem. At that time I realized that there was nothing to expect from them anymore." Not only Choo, but also about 30 other younger candidates are estimated to help bring out the policies aimed at solving the twenties’ problems. This active participation of 20s shows us that there are really few policies for this generation.
Students who came to Seoul from the country side aren’t enrolled as citizens of Seoul. Even though they are living in the dormitory or one-room apartment, or they are self-boarding students, they don't have a certificate that they live in an electoral district. According to election law, installing an absentee voting booth is only possible if there are over 2,000 voters. The NEC (National Election Commission) clarified their thinking regarding this matter. In the case of a geographically isolated university, the NEC will install a place to vote. However, the application process is very complicated and the only person who can request to install a voting booth is a representative of the university such as the president or administrative official. For these reasons the number of establishing voting booths on university campuses is very low. One Dongguk university student who came up from the country said, “Not only am I not interested in voting but I also have no chance to vote. Because of this I'm not making an effort to vote. However, I hope many students born in from Seoul do vote.”
To get rid of the long rooted conceptions of the older generation that the younger generation doesn't care about elections, 'The Union of University Voters' launched a project called “2U” with the aim of promoting the 20s vote rate on May 11th. 2U conducts various campaigns like establishing more absentee voting stations and opening festivals to speak about the 20s political views. This activity will boost the enthusiasm of the twenties voters and as a result increase voter turnout thereby demonstrating the 20s interest in politics.
Also, the union 20s Party consisting of university voters carries out various projects focusing on expressing the 20s voice and opinions of election. For example, suggesting practical policies for the 20s and strategizing over the 20s problems by gathering every week. "In the older generation, adults indulge all the passions to urge the rights of the 20s and democracy, however, the 20s view in this century is not what it used to be." Seong-hwan, Kim, one of the members of the ‘20’s Party' said, "The university students can't help making “spec” (in Korea, it means the objective terms of job seeker like certificates, TOEIC and TOEFL scores, internship, outside activities, etc.) Being a “spec” student is the crucial barometer of the chances of being employed by a company. In other words, university students can't only focus on an election by wearing a red band on their head. So, it is absurd to think the 20s are not interested in elections."
To create more pledges for the twenties, university students should actively take part in campaigns to express their opinions and even run for office themselves. Seong-hwan Kim, a member of the “20's Party” said, "The Politicians' meeting was just empty-talk in that they didn't strive to listen to the real the 20s needs. I think our opinion should be more involved in making pledges. For this reason, hearing 20s opinion was a great chance to understand the 20s view and check what the practical the needs of 20s are." The pledges discarded the charging fee for the 20s transportation card and low interest loans for youth housing were changes brought about by the 20s. The person who suggested this pledge was Seong-ho Choo, one of the 20s candidates. It shows that our generation has already become aware of what we need and are trying to make it come true.
In order to solve difficulties in voting for students from the country, various activities have been started. That is establishing the absentee voting place on university campuses as well as moving-in notification of country students’ campaign. The Union of University Voters and the Union of Korea University students have requested the NEC to lower standards for the number of absentee voters. Many other universities also have various activities. The General Students Association of Dongguk University has made an effort to establish an absentee voting station by encouraging absentee voting among students. Students can apply in front of Sanglokwon, Haklim Hall lobby, Neunggumsarang, Manhae Hall lobby. Park In-woo, the president of the Student Council said, “Our goal is to encourage the uninterested people and to establish absentee voting booths on our campus.” In the case of Yonsei University, the General Student’s Association has requested the construction of rental housing for university students. They are planning to exercise student rights at local elections on the June 2nd vote for building rental housing. Korea University has plunged into an 'establishing absentee voting booths' campaign.
If local election voting places are established on university campuses the voting rate of university students will be substantially increased. Last year a recall election was held in Suwon-Si where the NEC established a voting place for residents in the big hall of Sungkyunkwan University. Because there was a voting booth on campus, the voting rate of Sungkyunkwan University students was 56.9%. It was higher than the local average voting rate of 35.8%. In fact, the high voting rate of Sungkyunkwan University students contributed to Min-ju Party winning the election. This clearly shows that the NEC should install voting stations in more universities.
Do you still blame the older generation and choose not to take part in the election? To sum up, the low participation of the twenties voters is everyone's responsibility. The older generation's prejudice and negligence for the 20s deprive them voters' interest. Also, the 20s who have less experience in voting ignore the election and act like it's none of their business. Seong-ho Choo summed it up nicely when he said, "We have to break this vicious cycle where the 20s don't vote and the older generation ignores the younger generations problems. We need to keep in mind that voting is a process of argument and we must actively participate in it if we want to see change!"
Park Ji-hyun , Bang Hye-jung firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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