Bright minds help make politics cool

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Bright minds help make politics cool


Cho Yoon-ho, 22, a student at the University of Seoul, has been receiving a steady stream of calls from media organizations and publishers.

Cho spent last month busy writing columns for a newspaper about the controversial Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, writing a book titled “People In Their 20s Should Be Interested In Politics,” and appearing on debate programs for broadcasting companies.

Cho, who is better known by his pen name “Jobonjwa,” calls himself a “liberal commentator.” Cho began gaining public interest with his writing about social issues on his blog.

His writings attracted many readers, which landed him a freelance column in a daily newspaper in October of last year.

“I’m pressed for time during exam time at school to work and study,” said Cho, “but I am keeping up the steam as I believe active social participation leads to changes.”

As both the ruling and opposition parties are scrambling for the hearts of young Koreans on issues such as unemployment and high college tuition, an increasing number of young Koreans in their 20s, who were considered one of the least interested groups in politics, are becoming more interested in the area.

Some passionate youths even write about and discuss politics publicly.

Song Jun-mo, 24, a student majoring in sociology at Yonsei University, also gained public interest with an article he wrote on his blog in 2009 titled, “The 880,000 won Generation.”

Many Koreans in their 20s earn on average 880,000 won ($764) a month.

Song now appears on discussion programs on TV as a panelist and is being courted by publishers.

Han Yoon-hyeong, 27, who studies philosophy at Seoul National University, also went from blogger to a columnist for a daily newspaper. He has written two best sellers.

Experts see this phenomenon of young Koreans taking more interest in politics as a good sign.

A sociology professor Jeon Sang-jin at Sogang University said, “Knowledge that was once monopolized by some elites in the past is now produced and consumed by the general public and grabs the attention of those in their 20s,” and added he believes the phenomenon is positive as “the knowledge stream that used to flow vertically now flows horizontally.”

Shin Kwang-young, sociology professor at Chung-Ang University also said, “People in their 20s were the first generation to have experienced the Internet world so they are more skilled in expressing their thoughts through digital media compared to the older generation.”

He added that “formation of new popular intellectuals is a healthy phenomenon.”

By Kim Min-sang, Han Young-ik []
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