What comes to mind when you think of Korea high participation? Most of you may think about sports. When the 1988 Olympic Games and 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup were held, people’s participation and expectations were enormous. Also for world-renowned athletes like Kim Yu-Na and Park Tae-Hwan, expectations and hopes have been very high. The professional baseball games, which are at their peak of popularity these days, have gained more and more fans and public interest in recent years too.
It is not only in sports. Many Koreans worked hard to make a living during the national financial crisis, and they were also active in economic drives. Gathering gold to contribute to the nation, holding the Anabada campaign (A movement of saving, sharing, exchanging and reusing), using domestic products, and so on, these movements have helped us overcome the hard times.
These days, people are active in sharing useful information with each other through SNS. Many students do not only study in school, but participate in extracurricular activities as well. We can especially cite college students applying for volunteer work and other enterprises or organizations. Through this, we can see their initiative in different fields and in different forms.
However, there are a few things, which have not quite yet received people’s interest. One of them is the international festivals held in Korea. For example, the Global Fair & Festival 2009 at Incheon progressed to attract an inward investment with a city planning model for the enhancement Korea’s competitiveness. Nevertheless, the festival ended up becoming a failure because the participation rate was very low. The city had to pressure some elementary and middle schools into buying tickets in order to increase sales. The Yeosu Expo, which is currently being held, is also trying to heighten the participation rate by giving citizen vacations.
There are many reasons these festivals end in failure. To name a few: unsatisfactory facilities and programs. However, I think the people’s low participation rate speaks for itself. Those festivals are held in order to attract people abroad and set Korea on a global scale; at the same time, it is for us to reach our goals to get all the attention we can get. Sadly, it turned out that we couldn’t seem to do that.
The lack of participation also seems to appear in our attitude toward history and politics. In Korean history, there have been some major conflicts with other countries. China’s Northeast Project puts our histories of Koguryo and Balhae Kingdom in their own, and there have long been the problems with Japan, including the territory issues on the East Sea and Dokdo as well as Japanese history textbook controversy. However, people move only when the problems become an issue and few people maintain the movement. Especially the problems with Japan are more or less drawn out. People are upset, but don’t actually do anything about it.
Another problem is the participation in voting. Voting is the most important right we have and the most fundamental method of raising our voice to government. Most people know this but many of them still only look at Election Day as a holiday to rest. Recently, celebrities have carried out campaigns to increase the voting rate and it has shown some positive effect, but it still is not enough.
The following graph is voter turnout graphs for Presidential Elections and of National Assembly Elections until now.
In the graph we can see the rates have increased sometimes, but generally they have declined. The below graph is the age group of voting for the last Presidential election 5 years ago and for the members of the National Assembly on April 2012.
We can notice that for the 20s and 30s voting rate is the lowest overall. They are very active on SNS, supporting political movements and things like that, but the graph actually shows that they are rather inactive in participating to express their opinions to the government with their basic rights. The 20s are especially known to be more aggressive in some fields about which they are passionate or which are beneficial for them. They try to do more activities such as forming support groups and many other events. Of course, those political activities are important, but we should note that their interest might be able to go beyond their immediate interests. That is to say, national festivals and historical problems are important as well. This is our story and what a shame when we think about our lack of sensitivity to these problems. ‘We can’t see the forest for the trees!’< Copyright © The Gachon Herald All rights reserved >
The 20s, 30s and teenagers are the generations to be educated to enter good universities and get a fine job to live well. As a result, we are known to be less aware of our own national and political history, but we should have learned more from schools or from our family. Some of us have tried to think autonomously by reading many books, but currently our generation’s portrait is not that desirable in those general terms.
There are some adults regretting now because they didn’t live autonomously when they were young. Our generation will lead this society soon, but if these states are to be continued we will be in a difficult situation to solve many problems, both political and historical. To let people know the importance of historical and political awareness, we perhaps should campaign through SNS, one of the best mediums we can try.
The world is becoming increasingly complex and diverse. At times like these, we have to think for ourselves with our own principles and not be swayed by other futile events. Maybe a country with a large population can develop further and become a better place, but for that purpose, the public’s awareness and participation are necessary. Although Korea is a small, divided country which is placed at the end of Asia, our country has prominent technical skills and outstanding individuals, who are considered excellent everywhere. We have overcome a national economic crisis in less than 20 years. I think it’s enough to be proud of. We must reflect on ourselves but also pay attention to, and participate in, our country to further develop our nation.