Nationwide local elections are coming, and soon 4,000 administrators and legislators for provincial, municipal and smaller autonomous units will be elected. Results of the election will be a referendum on performance of the Lee Myung-bak administration, as these are the first nationwide elections in two years. Also the election results will be remap the political configuration before the 2012 presidential vote. For university students, it will be an opportunity to act as stakeholders in the nation’s future.
Similarly to the way President Lee got attention by advocating a “half tuition” pledge during his campaign for the 2008 presidential election, each party is now trying to reflect university students’ interests in their election pledges in a bid to get votes.
According to a news release from the Democratic Party (DP) dated March 15, Chung Sye-kyun, the DP president has also mentioned a “half tuition” policy and said such policies can be made possible if budgets for certain policies like the Four River Restoration Project are reassigned. The Democratic Labor Party (DLP) has also pledged to expand scholarships and rental house plans.
Despite such attempts to gain student interest, during the last two elections the participation rates of the youth population, including university students, have been the lowest on record. For the 2006 local election, the voting rate for people in their early 20s was 38.6 percent, the lowest among all age groups. The voting rate of college-age students for the 2008 Presidential Election was the lowest of any age group as well.
In order to encourage more university students to vote in the June 2 Election, 2U, a group including student unions from 21 universities and other civic groups, was established on April 11. According to a survey done by 2U from April 5 to 13, 73.5 percent of 956 participants said that they plan to take part in the voting for this election.
2U aims to encourage students to vote by holding several talks and promoting movements to solve problems such as tuition and unemployment.
The group held an event called the 2010 Declaration Movement for University Students’ Political Participation V for Change on April 30 in Yeouido Park. In this event, 1,500 university students from 30 universities took part.
“It was freely carried out; there were students’ performances and free speech sessions,” said Jung Yoon-ji (Law, 4), the president of the Student Government Association of Ewha who was the MC of this event.
Also, during the event, participant students presented a list of “University students’ 10 demands for the 2010 local election” and politicians from each party expressed their thoughts and opinions.
“The needs of university students have often been neglected since few students voted in previous elections. However, this time, university students need to take action and participate in voting to ensure their rights,” said Jung.