Vital new teen votersFor the first time in the history of Korea, 19-year-old citizens will be eligible to cast ballots in the Dec. 19 presidential election. All in all, a total of 619,600 people fall into this category. These youngsters will exercise their right to vote even before doing their mandatory military service or paying taxes. It’s a generation that is truly blessed.
They were born between 1988 and 1989, a period when Korea made great strides as democracy was beginning to bloom and the 1988 Summer Olympics was held here. Despite the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s, this generation iscoming of age receiving the benefit of democracy, the country’s well-developed information technology, openness to the outside world and growing corporate transparency. They have learned in school that competition within order and law is the basis for upholding democracy. They believe that this country, the 13th-largest economy in the world, operates under such rules.
Nevertheless, the current presidential election is not exactly a reflection of that belief. Even before public pledges on education and jobs were heard, this young generation had to listen to bribery scandals, massive financial fraud cases, withdrawals from political parties and the breakup of parties. They had to witness how an experienced politician ignored principle and law and how another disregarded party primary rules and opted for a third run at the Blue House. There will be many among the 19-year-olds who will be disappointed and ask themselves if this is a true democracy.
Nevertheless, this is a time of new opportunity and hope. This is exactly why a single vote is so important. In a flawed world voters may not have an ideal candidate, but they nonetheless must try to make the best choice among the available candidates to try and improve the world. Throughout Korea’s turbulent political history, the people have learned through elections. It took some time, but military dictatorships eventually ended as both the mainstream and opposition parties acquired ruling power. As demonstrated by the Roh administration, when those in power are arrogant they are punished in elections. Now, these 620,000 youngsters are standing center stage and can have an impact on Korea’s future. These 19-year-olds may be the “little brother” generation among voters, accounting for 1.6 percent of the electorate. But their passion, sharp insight and vested interest in the future of the nation make them a force to be reckoned with ― the force of the future, a force for good. Bring on the young voters.