최종편집 : 2020.5.21 목 20:08
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Now Even Students Can Vote?
Sim Seong-a  |  tlatjddk2019@cau.ac.kr
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승인 2020.04.20  18:59:50
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

 

   
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Last December 27th, the National Assembly passed a plenary session to revise the Public Official Election Act, which calls for granting voting rights to students over the age of 18. As a result, about 520,000 18-year-olds will be eligible to vote in the 21st general election on April 15th, with an estimated 140,000 high school students among them. Voters aged 18 are expected to be only 1.1 percent of all eligible voters, but they are drawing public attentiondue to the fact that that high school students are included in the electorate. The main purpose of the amendment is to promote the participation of the younger generation in politics. But there are now mixed voices of expectations and concerns surrounding the expansion of these electoral rights. Those in support say it is a guarantee of legitimate rights. However, those who oppose the change feel it could bring about side effects which can lead to politicization of classrooms can't be ignored. Therefore, let's look at the impact of such 18-year-old voting rights on domestic society and find ways to supplement them systematically.

 
What Has Been Changed in the Existing Legislation?
Article 15 of the existing Public Official Election Act states that people aged 19 or above have the right to vote for the president and lawmakers. It also states, "Any person of 19 years of age or above who falls under any of the following as of the basis date of preparation of the electoral register under Article 37 (1) shall have a right to vote in the elections of local council members and the head of the local government in the relevant district." Under the current Public Official Election Act revised in December, however, all of these criteria have been changed from age 19 to 18. So, do all high school seniors have the right to vote? No. To give an example of the general election to be held on April 15th, only those born between January 1, 2002 and April 16th, 2002 are eligible to vote. The revision of the Public Official Election Act, which gives voting rights to 18-year-olds, began with the criticism that voting rights are not in equity with other existing duties or rights. Currently, South Koreans are obliged to national defense and pay taxes at the age of 18. It is also possible from the age of 18 to obtain a driver's license or to take the civil service exam. In contrast, the logic is that it is not reasonable to apply the criteria of being 19 years old only in terms of electoral rights.
 
The Purpose and Expected Effect of the Amendment 
      
▲ https://bit.ly/2Qw7z2o
The main purpose of amending the Public Official Election Act is to promote the participation of the younger generation in politics. According to the ‘Comparative Youth Values Survey’ released by the Korea Youth Policy Research Institute, teenagers' interest in social issues and political issues is graduallyincreasing. This can be seen as an example of the fact that adolescents in modern society have sufficient capacity to exercise their political rights. Therefore, by expanding the scope of the election to those 18 or older, the right to participate in politics can be guaranteed by teenagers who were marginalized by the right to vote. Also, the lowering of voting age could positively improve the perception of youth participation in politics. In fact, since the voting age was lowered in Finland, the youngest prime minister has ever been elected. The Social Democratic Party, the largest party in the National Assembly, held an in-house primary to pick its next prime minister, resulting in the election of Sanna Marin. She is Finland's third female prime minister and was elected to the city council of Tampere in 2012 when she graduated from college at the age of 27. As such cases show, expanding electoral rights can result in teenagers being interested in politics as well as actively participating. In fact, Korea currently has the highest age limit among OECD countries. In addition, some argue that teenagers should be guaranteed the right to participate in politics regardless of their income because they are paying enough indirect taxes through their daily purchases.
Accordingly, the aspect of the general election is expected to change as well. If 520,000 18-year-old voters are newly introduced with the passage of the Public Official Election Act, the number of teenage voters is expected to exceed 1 million. Each party focuses on coming up with targeted pledges to win the hearts of these teenage voters. There are also various analyses as to whether the lowering of the election age will benefit the liberal camp. According to a poll released by Gallup Korea in December 2019, the approval rating for political parties between the ages of 19 and 29 stood at 33 percent for the liberal ruling Minjoo Party of Korea and 9 percent for the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party(United Future Party). When asked about the Moon Jae-in president's job performance, however, 41 percent of respondents gave a positive assessment, and 40 percent gave a negative assessment. In response, Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University, said, "Since the absolute number is not big, neither the ruling party nor the opposition party will be particularly advantaged or disadvantaged". There are also predictions that a new minor party, supported by teenagers, could split the votes.
 
What Problems Are Predicted?
In 2019, Realmeter surveyed 501 adults nationwide on the revision of the Public Official Election Act.According to the results of the survey, 44.8 percent of the respondents said they were in favor of lowering the election age from 19 to 18. On the other hand, 50.1 percent of the respondents said they were against the idea. So what are the concerns of those who have expressed their opposition to the 18-year-old electoral right?
Starting this year, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will conduct a mock election. This is an education project designed to help students understand the electoral system and to inform them of the importance of suffrage. However, some education organizations are strongly opposed to the idea, saying that if mock election education is conducted at schools, it could cause political bias among students and cause the politicization of classrooms. The Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations(KFTA) criticized the government in a statement, saying, "The National Assembly pushed ahead with the revision without any discussion or countermeasures, which is an anti-educational move that only uses students as a means of winning votes". Accordingly, the National Election Commission said on February 6th that it would not allow mock elections organized by the education office. However, on February 23rd, after a question-and-answer session, they announced that they would allow mock elections organized by civic groups and allow virtual parties and virtual candidates to vote if organized by the education office.
However, even if civic groups organize a mock election, there is still a risk that the project will be abused. According to an official from KFTA, 12 percent of the respondents said that the teacher made remarks in support of a particular candidate when KFTA surveyed 264 middle and high school students who participated in a mock election organized by the Jinggom Bridge Education Community in 2018. In response, Chung-Ang University professor Lee Seong-ho also said, "The election committee has not allowed mock elections organized by the education office because of the political neutrality of education. However, the mock election by private groups is also expected to be politicallymotivated". It is very dangerous because the purpose of democratic electoral rights itself could be undermined if adolescents with poor judgment compared to adults receive an education that has lost political neutrality. There is even a concern that the school itself, the space where students study could turn into an election board.
 
    
▲ https://bit.ly/2J5ytua
Direction to Be Complemented
So, what supplement should be made to prevent the side effects of the revised Public Official Election Act? The National Election Commission also raised concerns about politicizing classrooms and said supplementary legislation is needed. On January 10th, the request was made by the National Election Commission to discuss legislative supplementation to prevent confusion in the education scene due to the lowering of the election age. They specifically emphasized that discussions should be held on whether distribution of the preliminary candidate's business card should be banned in elementary and secondary schools, whether speeches should be banned at primary and secondary schools, whether parliamentary reporting sessions should be banned at primary and secondary schools, clauses banning civil servants from election campaigns, and whether private school teachers should be included.
It is also important to prepare a device that makes it easy for 18-year-old voters to get access to accurate election-related information. To that end, the National Election Commission first distributed election training video clips on March 2nd through online and mobile platforms to new voters. The video clip contains the rights and duties of voters, voting procedures and methods, and election laws, and is designed for easy learning. In addition, the National Election Commission said they will continue to work closely with related agencies such as the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and the Office of Education to ensure smooth election training for 18-year-olds. Moreover, there were various opinions of educators. Kim Kyung-hoe, a professor at Sungshin Women's University, said, "We need to take a close look at the process of introducing Japan's election rights standards." This is because there is a precedent in Japan that calls for thorough teacher neutrality by distributing specific manuals to individual teachers. Cho Yoon-hee, a teacher at Geumseong High School, also pointed out that teacher education is essential. It is expected that if election education is included as an essential training course for teachers, such as sex education and gender equality education, it will minimize confusion within schools.
 
The revision to the Public Official Election Act, which includes the recognition of the right to vote for 18-year-olds, is drawing keen social attention ahead of the April 15th general elections. There are various discussions about how the lowering of the election age will affect the process and outcome of the election. As many other advanced countries have already recognized the right to vote at age 18, Korea can also expect it to lead to the maximization of political interest among young people. However, many experts warn that the current revision, which simply adjusted the age from 19 to 18, can cause various side effects. If teachers, private organizations and the education office reveal their political views, students can be directly affected. If teachers, private organizations and the education office reveal their political views, students can be directly affected. Therefore, strict management and supplementary measures by the Election Commission are needed to ensure students' legitimate right to vote and protect democratic principles.
 
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