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Thursday: A Day of Voting and Rest

Posted April. 11, 2004 22:00,   


“Let’s vote first and play second.”

A 35-year-old Mr. Park, deputy general manager of an IT related venture company, is taking a day off from work this Friday. Thursday is voting day for the 17th general elections and Saturday is a holiday. Park gets to rest every other Saturday and this time, it’s his turn. By taking this Friday off, Park can go on a long-awaited four-day “spring vacation.”

Park, who has never been able to go on a decent summer vacation due to office work for the past few years, is planning a trip to Thailand with his wife and six-year-old son.

Although the last general election only showed a voting rate of around 50 percent, the upcoming 17th general election on Thursday is expected to show higher voting ratings. However, there are obstacles lying in ambush that may offset these expectations. Not only are there many like Park who mistake Election Day for a holiday, but there are many college students whose mid-term exam periods directly clash with this day as well.

--Tourists on the move; golf resorts full

Tourists looking for nearby travel spots for quick three or four-day getaways are heading to Southeast Asia and China around Election Day.

According to Asiana Airlines, reservations for plane tickets on flights heading to Southeast Asia on Thursday and Saturday are already over 90 percent booked. This figure greatly exceeds the usual 60 percent booking rates for Wednesdays and Thursdays. Flights to Beijing are also booked for 75 percent on Thursday and 90 percent on Friday, exceeding the usual 60 percent rate.

Overseas group traveling packages are also popular. According to Hanhwa Tours, the number of travel package reservations for Southeast Asia and China on Thursday and Friday amount to 1,400, almost double the usual number of 700 to 800 reservations.

Domestic travel is also popular. Flights from Seoul to Jejudo on Thursday for both Korean Air and Asiana Airlines have long been booked to capacity.

Reservations for golf resorts near Seoul are also almost full, and Thursday golf course slots for the main golf resorts L and T of Yongin and N of Seongnam of Gyeonggido were already booked up as far back as two weeks ago.

--Similar Trends on College Campuses

Although the younger generation has shown a relatively strong interest in the upcoming election, it is hard to determine whether this will translate into a high voting rate.

This is because most mid-term exam periods for universities are in the third or fourth week of April. With heightening interest in getting good grades, and with employment rates remaining stagnant, it is hard to expect students to venture out of the library to actively participate in voting.

According to a recent survey conducted by the National Election Commission (NEC), 61.5 percent said that they would definitely vote, and 22.8 percent said they would vote if possible: thus, those who intend to vote amount to 84.3 percent. However, it is difficult to put too much faith in the results, since in a similar survey conducted before the 16th general elections in 2000, 82.6 percent replied that they intended to vote. The eventual voting rates were the lowest in history with 57 percent.

Past general election voting rates have been steadily decreasing since the 12th general elections. The 12th election saw a voting rate of 84.6 percent; the 13th election, 75.8 percent; the 14th election, 71.9 percent; the 15th election, 63.9 percent, and the 16th election, 57 percent. In the district elections held in June of 2002, the voting rates plummeted to 48.8 percent.

NEC Public Affairs Director Koo Ja-sun says, “With the amendment of election laws, designating voting days to be Wednesdays in the future, it is expected that “election holiday” trends will greatly disappear in the next elections.” Koo added, “Keeping in mind that voting is a basic right in democracy, I hope that voters will first do their duty in casting their votes and then enjoy the rest of the day.”

Wan-Bae Lee Jin-Kyun Kil roryrery@donga.com leon@donga.com