Youth and politics
“I Want You to Feel the Bern” is a parody slogan of Uncle Sam’s “I Want You for the U.S. Army” on a poster for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign featuring Sanders’ face pasted over Uncle Sam’s to create Uncle Sanders. Thanks to solid support from young voters, the 75-year-old politician defeated Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary with a 22 percent margin.
The millennial generation born after 1980 is expected to have a significant influence in the presidential election, and both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are working hard to win their votes, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The generation is similar in size to the demographic group of those of ages from 50 to 70.
Sanders promised Medicare for All, state-sponsored health care regardless of income and age, and free public university education. Many experts say his policies are unrealistic.
Nevertheless, the young voters rave about Sanders as they grow antagonistic toward established Washington politics that neglect economic polarization.
With 53 days left until the general election, young Korean voters are in a similar situation. As the controversial spoon class theory shows, it is not easy for young people to become socially and financially independent.
Graduates from top colleges struggle to find jobs if they majored in liberal arts and humanities. Available jobs are often irregular positions. The burdens on the parents grows as they need to support their grown children.
Nevertheless, the young voters are not a crucial factor in Korean elections. According to the Ministry of the Interior’s population statistics from January, there are 14.35 million residents in their 20s and 30s. The population over 60 is 9.7 million, and the group in their 50s is 8.37 million.
Aside from the 8.87 million people in their 40s, which are divided equally between the ruling and opposition parties over economic and security policies, the difference in population between the young generation and the older generation over age 50 is about 4 million.
But the deciding factor is the turnout. In the 19th general election, the turnout of voters in their 20s and 30s was in the low 40 percent range, while the rate for voters over 50 was as high as 60 percent. When JoongAng Ilbo reporters met college students and young voters, many of them were interested in politics. A 30-year-old woman working part-time at a cafe said that she had a nephew and was concerned of childcare policy.
Many were knowledgeable and had a position on the government’s labor reform bill and the opposition’s promise of employment benefits. Jang Da-ye, 21, a political science major at Seoul National University, hosts seminars on political participation for young people. “Many young people want to have political conversations, but our involvement is often socially taboo. We are interested in current affairs but don’t know how to express our views.”
Instead of complaining that support from the young generation is not sufficient, Koreans should participate in elections and cast votes to before they can have a politician like Bernie Sanders. Politicians are quick to respond to vote counts.
The author is a deputy political and international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 30
by KIM SUNG-TAK