Youth vote calls for focus on jobs

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Youth vote calls for focus on jobs

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청춘 고난시대를 극복한 젊은이들의 얼굴에 미소가 가득하다. 2012년 신입사원 공채시험에 합격한 롯데백화점 새내기들이 서울 영등포 롯데쇼핑인재개발원에서 희망찬 새해를 기원하며 함성을 지르고 있다. [최승식 기자]

Kim Young-kyung, 30, head of the Youth Union, a social movement for Koreans ages 15 to 39, argues that young Koreans will no longer be deceived by politicians’ “empty” words about the unemployment crisis, and said that “more genuine action would be taking action to make changes by recognizing the core frustration of young people.”

Kim said that the reality of the current situation pushed her into getting involved in a social movement. When her parents couldn’t afford her college tuition anymore following the financial crisis, Kim said she had to take out loans to finish college. She also said she had to take a year leave from school and worked in various part-time positions “from morning to night” to pay for her tuition and living expenses.

When Kim turned 29, her debt had reached 10 million won ($8,650).

Hong Yeon-ju, 24, who attended a job fair in Seoul late last month came out of the fair without much hope.

“There seems to be no place for me to stand in Korea,” said Hong.

After graduating from college in 2009, Hong went to Canada for a year to study English after saving up money from working at a factory cafeteria for 6,000 won per hour. Hong went to Canada on a working holiday visa so she could work while studying to lessen the financial burden on her parents. Last September, Hong came back to Korea hoping to get a job. Despite sending out more than 30 job applications, Hong is still without a job.

Currently, one in every five young Koreans are unemployed, according to the Hyundai Research Institute, and their dissatisfaction is almost guaranteed to be a factor in the vote in this year’s general election in April and the presidential election in December.

According to a survey requested by the JoongAng Ilbo by Incruit, an online job-search engine, 33.7 percent of the 365 respondents in their 20s said they will cast their vote for a presidential candidate after hearing what the candidate has to say about policies to create jobs for the younger generation.

Moreover, 68.5 percent of the respondents said the most difficult situation they faced in 2011 was “getting a job.”

“Young Koreans in their 20s and 30s, who experience frustration over unemployment problems, are rapidly influencing politics,” said Cho Dae-yoeb, a sociology professor at Korea University.

Analysts said the biggest influence of the youth vote, which was clearly demonstrated in last year’s Seoul mayoral by-election, will stem from their employment insecurity.

“My number one concern is employment,” said Lee Jong-jin, 24, a senior at the University of Seoul, adding that he will “vote for a candidate who offers a vision for youth employment.”

To tackle the unemployment issue among young Koreans, President Lee Myung-bak said in his New Year address that the “unemployment issue among young Koreans is a state affair that needs to be tackled as a top priority,” adding that the administration will “devote all its energy to job growth” by allocating more than 10 trillion won this year to create new jobs.


By Special Reporting Team [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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