The significant win of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) last year in the South Korean National Assembly elections have created a vibrant way for its win in the March 2022 presidential race. The DP, kicking off with its unanticipated win in the National Assembly elections in 2016, has dominated four consecutive polls: the presidential election in 2017; the local election in 2018; and the general election last year.
The party marked its first time to collect election wins since democracy was practiced in the country in 1987. DP’s supporters and rivals share the same expectation that the party could dominate the political arena in the next decades.
Young voters in their 20s and 30s contributed the most in the party’s win. They were along with traditional supporters of the democratic bloc ages 40 to early 50s to attain election wins for the party and South Korea President Moon Jae In who carried the slogan of “equal opportunity, fair process, and righteous result” towards the top government seat.
Several young voters opt to support the DP rather than the People Power Party, then United Future Party (UFP), despite that Moon’s administration has already been surrounded with scandals.
DP has won 56.4 percent of voters in their 20s, as well as 61.1 percent of those who were in their 30s, a combined media exit poll conducted following the 2020 National Assembly Elections showed. The UFP, on the other hand, got 32 percent of votes from people in their 20s and 29.7 percent from those in their 30s.
Several voters of young age maintained the belief that a “deep-rooted evil” demands a solution to heal South Korea. They were also the set of people who expressed strong support to impeach a conservative, President Park Geun-hye.
But almost a year after the 2020 parliamentary election, PPP again dominated the elections and put its candidates on the mayoral seat of Seoul and Busan – the two largest cities in the country. The election has revealed the reality that the young voters who supported the DP are the same people who turned down the party.
Exit polls in the capital city showed that 72.5 percent of male voters in their 20s picked PPP’s bet, ex-Mayor Oh Se Hoon. As to the strongest support group, they came next to female voters in their 60s or older.
In terms of the younger voting groups, male voters in their 20s have not supported the President and his party. Since the start of the current administration, they are considered as the feeblest youth group for the ruling party.
Some 47.7 percent of the said group casted their votes in favor of the DP in last year’s legislative election. Meanwhile, 40.5 percent has supported the conservative bloc. This is lesser than the 65 percent of male voters in their 40s who supported the ruling party.
The #MeToo Movement, which sparked in the country concerning gender and feminism, was pointed by several males as their reason to drift away from the DP and the President. Several men in the said age group perceive talks on these issues as biased and that they are suffering from penalties of problems rooted in the past.
They eventually turned their backs to Moon who vowed before to become a feminist leader.
In contrast, Moon and his party still enjoyed the loyalty of women voters in their 20s and 30s. These age and gender groups believe that gender equality will be attained with the current government.
Younger females are regarded as an essential support group for the democratic. But the president’s approval ratings on this group fell prior to the by-elections. A poll showed that the President’s approval rating dropped by a stunning 30 percent among the said demographics, which is believed to have been affected by sexual allegations faced by the ruling party’s members. DP’s Mayor Park Won-soon has opened the Seoul mayoral seat after he died following an apparent suicide, as he face sexual allegation charges.
A public plea was aired by the late mayor’s victim, saying that she will be hindered to come back to work if Seoul again installs Democratic Party politician as its mayor.
She said that the term “person who claims to have been victimized” used by the DP members to address her is considered secondary victimization.
Three lawmakers were pushed to resign from their posts following her complaints. The said officials have used the term during the election campaign of the DP, which also included the President’s ex-spokesperson, along with the famous feminist activist who first used the term last week.
Sexual harassment allegations have triggered the shift of support for the two key posts in the largest cities.
The DP members’ harsh statements and move have shooed away young female voters. But several women still feel that they are not being supported by the PPP.
The exit polls have supported this perception, showing that only 15.1 percent of female voters in their 20s choose a candidate from the third parties, or those who ran independently. The same choice was also done by 5.7 percent of female voters in their 30s. The said results suggested that young female voters of the DP opt to support minor feminist candidate to forward their agenda.
The kkondae, which means “boomer” is the only thing seen to join female and male Koreans. Boomer refers to an older individual rendering his or her service in managerial post, and someone who often airs lofty remarks regarding younger people or younger groups.
Probably unknown to the ruling party, several younger voters view DP as a dominant political bloc. Worse, they consider the party as kkondae. DP has often viewed itself as a liberal fighter and challenger in the political arena that helps the PPP.
Varied age groups significantly hold varied political views in the country that industrialization and democratization have speedily been reached for past years. Conservatives still have the support of senior voters who believe that the country’s progress and economic wins are attributed to the conservatives. These voters were born prior or following the Korean War.
In contrast, the generation of Koreans who are currently in their 50s, or also called the Generation 586, is considered as the strong support of the democratic bloc’s political identity. People in this age group were born in the 60s and attended college in the 80s. Having this college education made Generation 586 take on an important role to democratize the country in 1987. Several people in this age group also became career politicians in their 30s as they became student leaders during their college years. In the last two decades, Generation 586 were not only made to become the most huge political power. They also became the most powerful socioeconomic age in the country.
Following them are Koreans in their 40s who claim that among the groups, they are the most politically progressive. Internet and podcasts became the tools of this age group to keep tabs in politics as they finished out of forceful student mobilization in the ‘90s.
Despite differences, older conservatives and younger liberals both have the inclination to air their remarks against the younger generation, or the youths in their 20s and 30s.
They viewed younger Koreans to have not gone through the hard times, such as bringing in foreign currencies for South Korea or out in the streets for movements to forward democracy amid fear of arrest or death.
Older generations said younger Koreans are complaining without basis when they called on challenges they were confronted with, forming the term like “Hell Joseon”.
But younger Koreans blame it on the falseness of Generation 586 and the present administration which was backed by the relatively young Koreans. The younger breeds let go of their hopes that the Moon administration’s promise of equal opportunity, righteousness, and equality will be realized. This, as key people for change have not achieved what is expected.
For one, legal reform’s famous figure was involved in allegations of taking advantage of his connections for the gains of his family. Another official also resigned following his admission that he increased his house’s rental prior to enforcement of the bill limiting such action.
Adding to the injury, some 73 National Assembly members from the democratic bloc along with its allies unveiled a bill that can give favored conduct and financial support for democratic movement participants’ families’ education, employment, and medical needs. Younger Koreans were not happy with the bill, perceiving it to only serve the Generation 586 politicians, whose political influence is massive. The disapproval has pushed the bill to be withdrawn, but it already has caused damage. Scandals surrounding the Korea Land and Housing Corporation, notably, have also stolen the hope left to young Koreans, whose majority have surrendered their desire to own their own home and begun setting aside every savings to the cryptocurrency and stock markets.
These actions, as several Koreans view it, were the picture of what it means to be a kkondae, who points out how the world should be while doing contrary of what they tell the young.