Are 19-Year-Olds Qualified to Cast Their Votes in Elections?
Are 19-Year-Olds Qualified to Cast Their Votes in Elections?
  • Ewha Voice
  • 승인 2006.04.05 00:00
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▲ Illustrated by Kim Ji-sun. The law, revised last June, states that 19-year-olds can also participate in the coming local elections. Is it their rights? Or are they still too young? Controversy on the voting age continues.
   The local elections to be held on May 31 are still 60 days away, so there may be many Ewha students who have hardly given them a passing thought yet. But these elections are a little bit out of the ordinary. Since the revision of the election law in June 2004, the voting age has been lowered to 19 years old. The previous law, which was passed in 1960, only allowed citizens over the age of 20 to vote. But in the coming local elections, all citizens born before June 1, 1987 have the right to cast their votes.
   The new voting age was approved as a result of a campaign by NGOs and politicians which had continued since 1995. The new voting age, however, is creating some friction between members of the Korean public with differing views. Opponents of the new law say that many students hardly even know about the changed law, and therefore can hardly be trusted to vote, either. The Ewha Voice invited three students to debate the pros and cons of the new law, in order to get a better insight concerning students's views of the changed voting age. The three students were Choi Hwan-young (Yonsei Univ., 2), Kim Jin-suk (Inha Univ.,1) and Hur Young-jeon (Liberal Arts, 1).
Hur: By lowering the voting age, more people can not only exercise their rights but also become more interested and involved in social issues and politics. Students can apply the concepts they learned in school and develop the desire to participate from an earlier age.
   Kim: Students have the right to cast a ballot, but their votes can be manipulated by politicians or political parties. It is too risky to regard the election as a learning experience for the students if we consider the fact that a successful candidate serves for four to five years.
   Hur: However, it is a contradiction to allow students to have all other forms of fundamental rights except for the right to vote. If students are taught how to exercise their rights previously at school, students's votes can be as meaningful and significant as those of the other voters.
   Kim: It is hard to say that students who are 19 years old have the ability to make a fair judgment. They are mere beginners who have just made their first steps toward society. In foreign countries, students may gain various social experiences from an early age. However, in Korea, most students spend their time in high school studying and preparing for the college entrance exam, making most of them incapable of making a wise decision in casting their votes.
   Hur: The capability to judge is not something that can be determined by one? age. I believe students were losing interests in politics because the voting age was set at 20 years old. The problem of political apathy among the younger generation will be solved through political campaigns and advertisements as time passes.
   Kim: Age cannot be the criterion for judging whether one is fully mature or not, but we should still assume that people acquire the ability to judge on their own by the time when they reach the age of 20.
   Choi: When students graduate from high school, they become more independent and responsible. Moreover, they get to have more chances to think about social issues. I believe in Korea, you are acknowledged as an adult when you reach the age of 19. You are permitted to drink, drive a car and join the army, all of which require responsibility and judgment. It is unreasonable to prevent 19 year olds from participating in the election.
   Kim: Before voting for someone, we should consider various factors like each candidate's perspectives and previous political activities. However, since students hardly know about any of these, they will make up their decision based on external factors like pledges that are yet to be proved.
   Choi: Unlike in the past, students can easily get access to information on the Internet. And that is why some political parties and politicians are running campaigns on the Internet. Students can get information on the candidates and establish a standard to choose the best representative. Moreover, since we are not involved in regional favoritism or prejudice like adults, there is more possibility for us to make a better decision.
   Personally, I feel like I'm finally being accepted as a citizen of this country and feel responsible because of the fact that my vote can actually make a difference in our society. Students should have interest and an intent to participate.
   Hur: I feel proud and responsible as well. We should participate in the coming elections and cast our votes to the best candidate who not only has a vision for the community but also has sincerity and a driving force. 

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