Youth joblessness trumps politics
Rep. Yoon Hu-duk, a member of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) has come under fire for contacting a local company head in his district to tell him that his lawyer daughter had applied for a position there. The Saenuri Party’s Kim Tae-won is also being investigated by the ruling party’s ethics committee for using his influence to get his son an experienced position at the Korean Government Legal Service.
While this isn’t the first time lawmakers have used their authority for favors, the allegations have prompted public outrage. And the controversy is unlikely to subside with youth unemployment in such a dire state. Statistics show that the youth unemployment rate is higher than 10 percent, and even graduates from Korea’s top three universities are having a hard time finding a job at a large corporation. In the past, passing the bar exam would guarantee a stable life for legal professionals, but even lawyers must fiercely compete for jobs.
The youth unemployment issue is an aggregation of contradictions in Korean society. The young generation argues that they have been forced to give up on dating, marriage, children and owning a home because they can’t find gainful employment and therefore can’t make money or save. Their unemployment also burdens their parents, who are often struggling to prepare for retirement. The low birth rate and an aging population are directly related to youth unemployment.
Therefore, politicians need to renew their ethics in the aftermath of this controversy over favoritism. They will only distance themselves from the public if they ignore the plight of the nation’s young people and their parents’ generation. The opposition and ruling parties as well as the government need to start showing some initiative on this matter.
One father, whose child has frantically searched for work for three years since graduation, claimed he would vote for the party that solves this unemployment crisis. When the household economy is in jeopardy, voters don’t care about the pro- or anti-Park Geun-hye camps, or whether we have an open primary or proportional representation.
People’s political standards lean more on how certain pressing issues are addressed. Traditionally conservative “Gangnam moms” participated in the candlelight vigil that shook the Lee Myung-bak administration. The free school meal program - a hot-button issue in the election - and the government’s failure to properly respond to the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) caused President Park’s approval ratings to plummet. Korean politicians need to remember, it’s the jobs for the young people that matter.
The author is a deputy political news editor
for the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 21, Page 30
by KIM SUNG-TAK