People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok announced at an event held to celebrate Youth Day on Saturday, that he would push to lower the minimum age for electoral eligibility for local elections from 25 years to 18 years, which is the current voting age.
In the U.S., the minimum age required to run for federal president, Senate and Congress is at 35, 30 and 25 years respectively. In Japan, candidates must be at least 30 years old and 25 years old to run for the House of Councilors/ head of a local prefecture or the House of Representatives. In Britain, France and Germany, the eligible age to vote and candidacy is both age 18 years of age. It is difficult to say whether aligning the voting and candidacy age is better than having different age eligibility.
Lee did not mention about the age eligibility for presidential candidacy, which is 40 years of age and relatively older than other countries. Lowering the electoral eligibility age for lawmakers while keeping the minimum age requirement for presidential candidacy would widen the gap, making it questionable whether Lee has a thorough understanding of the system at all.
The local elections are scheduled to be held in June next year. Lowering the electoral age would be desirable in the sense that it gives more opportunities for youth to participate in local elections. However, the authority and responsibilities of head of local authorities are quite different from local councilors, as they are between metropolitan and smaller local governments. The differences should have been factored in before making the decision to lower the age requirement altogether. If changes are inevitable, the electoral age requirement to run for local governments should be separately discussed.
General elections will be held in April 2024. There is no reason to push to align the electoral age for lawmakers ahead of local elections. Also, the electoral age eligibility for lawmakers should be adjusted so that the gap does not grow apart from the presidential candidacy eligibility. Rather than distracting attention with this issue when presidential candidates have been recently announced at major political parties, we should focus on more critical economic and national security issues at hand.