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High school voters emerge as new variable in April 15 general elections

High school voters emerge as new variable in April 15 general elections

Posted January. 06, 2020 07:45,   

Updated January. 06, 2020 07:45


In the wake of amendment of the Election Law, voters aged 18 years old are emerging as a new variable in the upcoming April 15 general elections. At the time of the general elections for the 20th General Assembly four years ago, the number of voters aged 19 only accounted for 1.6 percent (677,326) of all voters. With the lowering of the voting age from 19 to 18 this time, more than 500,000 are set to cast ballot as new voters, which will bring the number of “teenage voters” to over 1 million. Different political parties are scrambling to develop “customized election pledges” while paying close attention to the direction of these young voters’ sentiment.

Based on the standard of the 20th general elections, voters aged 18 account for about 1.1 percent of all voters. This is based on the population aged 17 that was tallied at 532,295 as of late April 2019 by the Statistics Korea. The voting right for the April 15 general elections is granted to those born on April 16, 2002 or earlier. The absolute number is not large, but it is symbolically significant since it will be the first ever “voting by high school students.”

Various analyses have been made as to whether the lowering of the voting age will provide favorable condition to progressive political parties. According to an opinion survey by Gallup Korea on December 20, the approval rate of political parties among people aged 19 – 29 came to 33 percent for the Democratic Party and 9 percent for the Liberty Korea Party. However, their assessment of President Moon Jae-in’s performance was divided about equally, with 41 percent of the respondents for and 40 percent against it, respectively.

“Since the absolute number is not large, the lowering of the voting age will not be necessarily favorable to the ruling or opposition parties,” said political professor Shin Yool at Myungji University. As the probability for “dead votes” in the voting for proportional representative seats has been reduced following the introduction of the semi-interlinked proportional representative system, analysts say votes could be scattered to minor parties that are supported by teenage voters.

Sung-Jin Park psjin@donga.com