[Campus Commentary]Give youth a way to take part in politicsThe new term “poli-fessor” is popularly used in Korea to describe a professor who has participated in politics or has made a connection with political circles hoping to do so.
The word provokes controversy because the professor is seeking something beyond his duty to academia in an educational environment.
But there is no question that a “poli-fessor” should also be a doer, not just a talker or a thinker. Political figures such as Henry Kissinger, John Quincy Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Condoleezza Rice and Larry Summers, to name a few, were also scholars. This reflects the fact that American intellectuals are encouraged to enter politics.
While Korea has “poli-fessors,” there seems to be no such word for students who are, or want to get, in politics.
But we don’t have such a word yet, probably because students are not participating as much in politics as professors; either they have no interest in politics or the social environment is not ready for youth in politics.
Growing political apathy among college students has long been a problem. Critics cite a variety of reasons, including their tendency to egotism and self-interest.
But I think the major reason students are apolitical is that there is no ready social program or network in which students can participate in politics.
The only programs available to students here are mock-legislative assemblies led by politics majors, or election campaign programs that political parties have set up to attract votes from young people.
But I think college students can influence politics as part of the intelligentsia; someday they will lead future politics and society. That is why it is necessary to have a youth-oriented program in which the youth, while still students, can actively take part in politics and gain social recognition.
Anna Luhrmann is today the youngest legislator in the world. She ran in a general election for the Hessen Green Party and was elected under the system of proportional representation at the age of19.
She became a member of the German Bundestag, the German parliament. She also won in the last parliamentary elections, at age 22. In Korea, young students are not allowed to take part in national politics; one has to be at least 25 to run in any election.
Germany has programs for youth to get involved in politics. There is a juvenile assembly run by each state. They present ideas or proposals through the assembly. Those ideas are usually then conveyed to the local assembly and reflected in the National Assembly.
If Korea had a youth-oriented program like that, students could become active participants, playing an important role in politics.
Their ideas would be a refreshing new addition to the the present policy climate, where it is not easy for brand-new ideas to emerge or get public acceptance.
The German program recognizes that it is important to prepare people to take part in politics.
The program will get youth interested in politics by producing distinguished talents like Anna Luhrmann. Politics must involve people from all walks of life.
*The writer is a reporter for The Kwangwoon Annals at Kwangwoon University.
by Han Yu-na