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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 21)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:02 May 21, 2021

Wooing young voters
It is urgent to narrow generational divide

Members of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are in a race to win over younger voters in their 20s and 30s, which has gained momentum since the party suffered a crushing defeat in the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. Yet it is still questionable whether the DPK will be able to win back support from the younger generation that voted for candidates from the conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP) in the polls.

It is natural for the DPK to pay more attention to younger voters, considering that the party has so far focused on wooing the elderly. In fact, the DPK and other progressive parties have believed that young adults tend to support them because of their liberal ideological inclinations. But they can no longer expect such automatic support from young voters who are increasingly disgruntled by the political establishment.

Some DPK presidential aspirants are coming up with a set of policy proposals to placate the younger generation. However, they are facing criticism for resorting to populism. They seem too engrossed in garnering votes in the next presidential election scheduled for March 2022. One of them is former DPK Chairman Lee Nak-yon, who has recently floated the idea of depositing 30 million won ($26,500) in the bank for each enlisted soldier upon their completion of mandatory military service.

Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung has also proposed the provision of 10 million won each to high school graduates, who fail to go to college, to finance overseas travel. Former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has suggested that a bank deposit of 100 million won be available for each youngster who starts their career after graduating from school.

The three politicians have gone too far. They have failed to provide details about how they will foot the bill for their envisioned cash provisions. Cash payments cannot be a fundamental solution to the problems faced by young adults. The presidential hopefuls and the DPK should make more efforts to figure out the structural problems in our society, and why more and more young people feel frustrated about their future.

The youth unemployment rate surged to 10 percent in April, up from 9.3 percent from a year ago. Young people find it increasingly difficult to buy their own homes amid runaway housing prices. Many of them have delayed marriage due to difficulties in finding jobs and soaring living costs. Under these circumstances, they cannot help but feel a sense of deprivation because the older generations have monopolized wealth and power.

Policymakers and politicians need to present new visions and hope for the next generation. To that end, they must come up with bolder measures to narrow the widening generational divide and ease social polarization. It is urgent to create more decent jobs and provide affordable housing for those in their 20s and 30s. More than anything else, the older generation should give up their vested interests and endeavor to create a fair and just society. What young people value most is fairness and justice.
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