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[Sponsored Report] Koreans divided over lowering voting age

Feb 11,2017
Ongoing debates regarding the legislative move to lower the South Korean voting age from 19 to 18 continue within the South Korean parliament. Presently, all opposition parties — the Democratic Party, the People’s Party, and the Justice Party — are all in agreement on lowering the voting age, whereas the ruling Saenuri Party has still not reached a consensus.

The proposal for a lower voting age is not a new one, with a bill first presented as early as 1991. Since then, the issue has persistently been brought up by many politicians, such as the former Democratic Party representative Chang Ha-na, as well as the former Justice party representative Jeong Jin-hoo. Currently, major political figures such as the former Democratic Party leader Moon Jae-in have supported the move, pointing out the injustice in imposing military duty onto 18-year-olds yet refusing to grant them the right to vote.

The loudest call for action came from teenagers themselves. “Whoever is elected will influence the younger generation to a great extent,” said 18-year-old Chung Ji-won. “They will be in a position of power when we first start actively entering the world as productive members of society.”

Many other high school students have echoed their interest in taking a greater role in choosing their next leader. Kim Ju-yeon, a student at Gyeonggi Academy of Foreign Languages stated, “I believe that it is my duty as a citizen to know what is happening inside of Korea. I read the news everyday, and I routinely watch experts discuss current issues.”

An English teacher at a private institution, Park Hyeon-jin, 43, said, “In an age where everyone is well connected, 18-year-olds are plenty qualified as anyone else to have voting rights.”

When questioned about possible negative ramifications of giving such a responsibility to students who prioritize their studies, Park replied, “Studying, learning and understanding politics from a younger age, that’s a more useful, enriching form of learning.”

Though there were many persuasive arguments for the change, some are firm in their disagreement. “Teenagers are generally unproficient at logically weighing pros and cons. And high school seniors are too busy with their studies to comprehensively research and understand each politician’s political stance extensively,” said university student Kim Hyo-won.

If Korea does take this step and lowers the voting age to 18, it will be the last of the OECD countries to do so. The United States lowered the voting age to 18 from 21 in 1971, when it amended its constitution. In 2015, Japan was the most recent of the OECD countries to lower the voting age from 20 to 18.

Currently, South Korea is the only OECD country that sets the voting age at 19. The remaining 34 OECD nations allow voting from age 18 or 16.

BY KWON YOO-JIN, KIM JEUNG-EUN [jankim62442@gmail.com, 0610kwonyj@gmail.com]



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