• Updated : 2018.7.17 화 10:12
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Politics Buffs Have the Power to Create a Better SocietyOrdinary People’s Everyday Actions Are the Keys to the Power
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승인 2017.03.17  09:17:32
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▲ Protests on Geumnamro in Gwangju over the impeachment of ex-president Park Geun-hye on March 4

    The turnout among young voters in the 2016 general election had remarkably increased in comparison to the previous elections of South Korea. The voter participation of the twenties age group reached 52.7%, while that of 2008 was 28.1% and that of 2012 was 41.5%. This change in the young people is reflected in their social and political activities related to small or big issues all over the country. We can also find a considerable growth of the youth’s interest in our society around campus. However, the reality causes us to drift away from politics. How can we take part in a movement in real life without putting in too much time and effort? The Chonnam Tribune met four different individuals known as “political buffs” who are contributing big and small actions for our society. We asked them how and why they are dedicating themselves to make a better society and got some pieces of advice.

Starting from Student Council to Local Society
    Son Gyeong-won (Sophomore, Dept. of Political Science and International Relations), who has been working with the General Student Council (GSC) since his freshmen year, has a keen interest in both national and school society. “The easiest way to make your life better is to take an interest in the GSC. Listening to board members of the council and reading articles about CNU are a good start,” he said. He gave an example of one of the biggest agendas of last year, CNU’s presidential election system. “If students minded the school’s issues as their own business, the election may have had different results. I hope CNU students know that school’s issues can directly affect their life.”

   
▲ Son Gyong-won, a member of the GSC protesting for a direct CNUpresidential election

    He also expressed his inquisitiveness toward political and social issues outside campus. He is engaged in protests against President Park and the Sewol ferry disaster periodically. For readers who do not have much time to take a big step, he suggested sharing political articles and posts, the ideas and vision of which you support on Facebook and bringing symbolic accessories like a yellow bracelet. “It does not have to be something astonishing. Sharing a political article on Facebook on the way home can be a good start. No matter if it is big or small, the fact that you are making a move to make our society better is important.”
    If you think participating in political and social activities is too vague and abstract, you can begin with something next to you, something that might affect you directly. Inside campus, the easiest place to begin your movement (or have your voice heard) is probably the GSC. Care about your own life and politics related to it. Listening to the GSC would be a nice kick-off.

Standing Up for Minorities
    “You are just pretending to be enlightened.” These words, dropped by a best friend of Kim San-ha (Sophomore, Dept. of Japanese Language and Literature), just changed his life. “He has always been my biggest supporter. But I was shook-up when I heard this from my best friend because I had no doubt that I am a social activist.” His friend eventually made him move on to the next level of the movement. He, as a political activist, wants to create a society where minorities can live comfortable lives. “Physically handicapped people, for example, cannot go outside of the city without a protector by their side. Social facilities are far from being friendly to them, and the society is technically invading their mobility rights. I have always thought that I could be one of them. All human beings have the right to life with decency and it should be protected."

   
▲ Kim In-jeong and Kim San-ha protesting against the unfair treatment of temporary nursing teachers and education officials

    He suggested not being afraid that you need to make a big move and starting off by having a sense of curiosity toward the society. “Just be curious about social issues. You will get a desire to discover more. It is a human instinct!” He also emphasized the importance of shouting out. He said that talking to people about politics and listening to others’ opinions is a good way to serve your role for a democratic society. Minority issues including the rights of physically disabled people are significant in our society these days. Even though the society is trying to give more attention to the disabled, their welfare does not seem to be improving remarkably. Living in one of the developed countries, this reporter thinks we should step out of our personal comfort zone and care about the minorities. A small movement of dialogues with your family about minority issues will make our society even better.

Taking Actions for Women’s Rights
    Emma Watson’s speech on UN women has drawn the attention of people to the word ‘feminist’ internationally. Last year, there was a serious issue about gender equality throughout South Korea and an invisible war was going on between two extreme types of websites: extreme women-oriented websites and their exact opposite. With lots of judgements towards the opposite sex being made, people’s interest in feminists has grown domestically. Kim In-jeong (Senior, Dept. Japanese Language and Literature), who is highly passionate about gender issues and making efforts to fix the problems, defined herself as a ‘feminist.’ “The word ’feminist’ was a big issue last year. I read many essays about it. It made me look into the world in a different approach. I realized that I was not being conscious that many parts of the society are actually repressing women’s rights and women are being offended by the social structure and conventions. That came to me as a huge shock.” Even after the enlightenment, she is not an active political activist yet. Kim is not contributing greatly to any movements or dedicating tons of her time, but she is performing her role as a member of society.
    She joined ‘Korean Women Link’, a community working for women’s rights, and is financially supporting it every month. Not only that, she is fighting for gender equality by talking to her family and friends and is participating in online debates on gender issues. “To be honest, I still don’t know much about politics,” she added. As a real-life way to participate in making the society better, she recommended reading the ‘opinion’ section in newspapers or subscribing to media channels such as YouTube and podcasts. “Most importantly, casting a ballot in elections is a must-do on top of everything,” she emphasized.

   
▲ Kim In-kyeom welcoming foreign visitors as part of his volunteer works

Fighting for Human Rights
    The May 18 Democratic Uprising has literally changed the whole Korean society. It gave birth to the beginning of a democratic government, made our society fairer and caused it to flourish culturally. Most Gwangju citizens are inspired by the spirit of the May 18. Kim In-kyeom (Senior, Dept. of Political Science and International Relations) is a representative of official volunteer workers at the May 18 Memorial Foundation. He happened to take a class, which turned out to be a turning point of his school life. “‘May 18 Movement and Democracy and Human Rights’ was a turning point for me. In class I learned that the May 18 Movement influenced the history of South Korean democracy and the values of human rights in Gwangju.” He said the impression he got from the class lead him to step outside of the class and volunteer at the foundation.
    With his volunteering at the foundation, he decided upon the career goal of being a lawyer fighting for human rights. “The May 18 Democratic Uprising was a historical event that made the current identity of Gwangju. Take some classes related to the May 18 Movement before graduation, or participate in diverse programs related to the uprising, and you will feel the May 18 spirit,” he added. All the work that he has done in his college years made him learn a lesson, which is that the fundamental thing in making society better overall is to become a mature civil society. “I guess my ultimate goal would be to get into civil rights movements.” As a student in Gwangju, especially, understanding the historical significance of the May 18 is a must. You can start by taking a course related to May 18 and enhance your knowledge of it further by volunteering at the May 18 Memorial Foundation.

Easy Ways to Participate in Politics
    “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors,” Plato once said. We have seen a desperate outlook for the employment rate in headlines in newspapers, and it might sound like an unrealistic fairytale to participate in politics. Now with the example of the above-mentioned four ‘political buffs’, we can start with small individual actions. You can participate in political and social movements on a personal level; Take the May 18- related courses on campus, stay tuned to political podcasts, wear a yellow rubber band, or just go to your own living room and talk to your family about politics. Optimally, you are not going to be governed by your inferiors! You can make the world better for all of us.
 

By Lee So-yi, Tribune Reporter

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