New party recants support for lowering voter age

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New party recants support for lowering voter age

The new conservative party withdrew Thursday its support for a plan to lower the voting age to 18 after only one day.

“There are some members who disagree, and there are some members who could not attend yesterday’s meeting,” said Rep. Choung Byoung-gug of the new party, tentatively called the New Conservative Party for Reform (NCPR).

“We will make a new conclusion after further discussion.”

Three liberal opposition parties - the Minjoo Party of Korea, the People’s Party and the Justice Party - have promised to lower the voting age from 19 to 18. The NCPR joined the move on Wednesday, but decided overnight to withdraw its support.

“We discussed the outcome of a survey on various policy issues yesterday,” Choung said. “And we agreed to further discuss the issue. Those who participated in the discussion, however, had no disagreement on lowering the voting age.”

He added, “Although there was no disagreement during that meeting, it is a different issue whether to make it an official party line or not.”

Lowering the voting age to 18 will introduce about 630,000 new voters. The change is expected to benefit liberal candidates, as the demographics of voters by age indicate that older voters, who are often conservative, outnumber younger voters.

The three liberal opposition parties together occupy 165 seats in the 300-member legislature, and the NCPR has 30 members.

The conservative ruling Saenuri Party, largely supported by elder voters, currently has 99 members.

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and a defeated presidential candidate in the 2012 race, posted a twitter message in support of the change.

“In Korea, 18-year-old youngsters do not have voting rights,” he wrote. “They have military duty and duty to pay tax, but they do not have the right to vote. Korea is the only exception among the OECD countries. Now, politics must play its role.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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