"Don't complain, participate!"-clubs urge more political involvement
"Don't complain, participate!"-clubs urge more political involvement
  • 서연지 기자
  • 승인 2007.12.03 00:00
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▲ A member of Power 19 asks university students to choose three issues that they believe should be important for country's next president.

This December 19 will be the 17th presidential election day in South Korea. It may also be the first presidential election many college students can take part in, since the voting age was lowered to 19 in August, 2005. Despite this change to make politics more approachable to students at a younger age, it is widely thought by students that “politics” is not such an interesting subject to talk about or participate in. Amidst this atmosphere, Power 19 and University Voter Action (UVA) are the two groups of university students that are striving to change that perception and promote student participation in politics and the upcoming presidential election.

             Power 19

Power 19 is an interesting group that has about 200 university students as its members. It was first established in 2006 by Daehakheemang (university hope), a student club that takes part in various social activities from volunteering to campaigning. “We collected 100,000 signatures from students, promising to vote in the regional election on May 31st last year. But, we thought it would be more effective if we could gather some specific requests from university students to give to the politicians,” said Kim Seon-kyeong (Kyunghee University, 3), the president of Power 19. “So we gathered opinions from 8,500 people by passing out papers and asking students to write down three requests they wanted to make to the candidates. From the requests we gathered, picked nine of the most common ones and allowed people to stick three stickers on a poster to vote for their favorite requests,” said Paek Youn-seok (Yonsei University, 3), a member of Power 19. These collected requests were analyzed and posted up on the Power 19 website (club.cyworld.com/power19), and also presented in a press conference on November 8.

According to Kim, finding out what university students want the most will certainly help people to participate more in politics. “Students get to know what our common concerns are,” said Kim. Lowering school tuition fees and creating more employment opportunities were the most frequent requests by students. “Based on these results, students can analyze and compare the candidates’ pledges and decide who will be most likely to meet their needs,” said Kim.

 Power 19 also hosted a concert on November 9. “Unlike press conferences, which are somewhat formal, a concert with the objective of promoting students’ participation in politics seemed like it would appeal more to the students. I guess it is because of the concert atmosphere is similar to that of a festival, which allows students to enjoy themselves and freely share thoughts on the need to vote,” said Kim. Also, Power 19 created a video clip showcasing their hopes for the presidential election and posted it on the Internet. Before the election, Power 19 is planning to send its collected requests to the presidential candidates and it hopes to host a policy forum soon so that students and candidates can engage in extensive discussions.

University Voter Action

On October 8, University Voter Action’s establishment ceremony was held in Jongno. A group of students from 16 universities gathered with the common goal of encouraging more participation and fairness in politics. Performances highlighting the group’s requests and its determination to participate in the 17th presidential election were also held. Park Eun-jae (Chunbuk University, 4), the leader of UVA said, “Performances like giving a red card to a candidate who exacerbate regional discrimination, handing questions to candidates for open discussions, and printing hands on a placard to symbolize our participation in the election were all done to show our hopes for the presidential election.”

UVA also conducted a survey on students’ political awareness which is useful to help other organizations to find about the thoughts of university students. UVA calls its members and the roughly 350,000 other university students in Korea the “Gg,” (short for “global generation”). According to Park, “As Ggs, selecting the most desirable president does not just imply the exercise of one’s voting rights. It is beyond that. It means more like declaring that we are the owners and driving forces of the future, people who can change and develop society.” UVA also stages what it calls “manifesto activities,” which include analyses of candidates’ policies, sending open questions to candidates, and promoting participation in the presidential election online and offline.

According to Park, UVA is planning to hold more activities before the election. They will host an open discussion session with the candidates, with students attending, monitoring, and examining the validity of the candidates’ pledges, host a relay lecture by the presidential candidates, keep running their website (www.u-hang.com), and so on.

“The youngest congressional representative in Germany, Anna Reimann, once said ‘Don’t complain, participate.’ I couldn’t agree more on this with her. Today’s students complain about politics and their discontent is expressed in apathy. But I wonder, is this the best method? Wouldn’t it be more effective if we directly participate to make the change? I hope many students can realize this truth and not fear or be reluctant to participate in the presidential election,” said Kim. Paek also added, “Actually university students are not that apathetic, they just don’t know how to participate. So it is in our hands to show them how to participate.”

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