The young must voteA 28-year-old man is afraid to go home. Every day, he goes to the library and returns home late to avoid running into his parents. In 2012, he returned to Korea upon graduating from a prestigious university in the United States. But he was faced with the reality of job searching. That year, he interned at a Korean financial company for about six months, and it was the only work experience he had. In the last five years, he has applied to dozens of companies every year. Six months ago, he signed up for an employment prep class, which costs thousands of dollars a month. He learned how to write a résumé and how to do interviews. He is learning Chinese to build his skill set.
But he is losing confidence. To him, getting a job is like fighting a war. The closed doors of job opportunities are not likely to open to him. He would sometimes have a drink to relieve the stress, but his parents would scold him, saying, “How could you go out drinking when you don’t even have a job?”
In these beautiful days of sunshine and cherry blossoms, one in eight young Koreans welcome spring anxiously. As of February, the youth unemployment rate of the age group between 15 and 29 went up by 1.4 percent from the same period last year to 12.5 percent — the highest level since 1999, when the definition of unemployment was changed from people searching for a job for one week to four weeks. Youth unemployment is the highest of all age groups. The unemployment rate of those in their 30s and 50s are 3.4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. The official statistics show that there are 560,000 unemployed young people in Korea, 76,000 more than last year. 350,000 young people are not included in the statistics as they “did not work but did not search for job.”
As the number of young people struggling with unemployment is increasing, politicians are more interested in showing their influence and taking sides. They seem to be indifferent to the economy. As the election approaches, they suddenly say they are working for the young people.
But the young voters need to act themselves to urge politicians to address the unemployment issue. In the 19th National Assembly election, the turnout of voters in their 20s was the lowest at 41.5 percent. The overall turnout was 54.2 percent. As their voting rate is low, politicians care less about the young people. Politicians make laws for certain groups — despite the criticism of being populist — because of votes. If the politicians feel that they cannot win the election without proposing youth unemployment solutions, they would act more aggressively to create jobs for the young people.
If a young voter feels that politics belong to another league and is not his or her business, he or she needs to think that the vote can change the future. Instead of being deceived by sweet slogans, young voters should research who worked to resolve youth unemployment and who can work for them before deciding who to vote for. Heaven helps those who help themselves.
JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 4, Page 30
*The author is the business and industry news editor of the Korea JoongAng Daily.