Vote and make historyToday local elections are being held all across the country. We urge voters to go to the polls, cast their ballots and exercise their right to vote. Democracy is not perfect, yet it is one of the smartest inventions mankind has ever made. We believe voters should take part in the voting process in order to honor the sacrifices of our forefathers, promote the noble system and show our northern counterpart the supremacy of democracy. Their ballots will eventually benefit the voters themselves and their families.
However, growing political indifference has caused voter turnout to gradually decrease. Standing at 68.4 percent for the first local election in 1995, it plummeted to 48.9 percent in the third local election in 2002. In 2006, voter turnout barely exceeded 50 percent, with just 51.5 percent of the population going to the polls.
The deplorable phenomenon repeats itself in our national elections. Voter turnout for the National Assembly election dropped from 60.6 percent in 2004 to 46 percent in 2008, a record low in the history of national elections in this country. The decline is particularly noticeable among the young. In the 2006 local elections, for example, the turnout for voters in their 20s and 30s was 33.8 percent and 41.4 percent, respectively, compared to 70.9 percent for voters over 60 and 68.2 percent for those in their 50s.
The backwardness of Korean politics may explain voter apathy. Once elected, politicians eat their words immediately, and almost half of the elected heads of municipal governments were prosecuted four years ago. Once in office, officials spend money like water - pouring a huge amount of tax money into building glitzy municipal halls and other structures as tributes to themselves. As a result, voters’ distrust of government has plunged, leaving many to wonder what difference one vote will make.
However, votes can change not only a society but history. The result of the 1985 general election that shook up Chun Doo Hwan’s military dictatorship, the 1988 general election that handed opposition parties their first victory over the ruling party, and the consequences of the 1992 general election, which saw the ruling party warned, were all historic changes wrought by voters.
In these elections too, many issues await voters: Who is telling the truth about the tragic Cheonan sinking? What should become of the Sejong City development and the four rivers development project? What’s the desirable scope of the proposed free lunch program at school? Is the Lee Myung-bak administration really despotic? Who will make the most of taxpayer money? And who as superintendent will take care of our schools and students? We have a mature democracy, and must cast our ballots to keep it.