Youth Participation

The Number of Young Candidates in the past
Youth participation in elections and politics has been declining in South Korea. According to statistics from the National Election Commission, the number of candidates in their 20s and 30s has been decreasing since reaching its peak of 206 in the 1996 elections. The 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections were respectively recorded with 160, 148 and 33 young candidates.

The Number of Young Voters in the past

The same results goes for the number of young voters. According to the election watchdog’s data, the turnout among those in their 20s at the 2004 and 2008 elections were respectively about 45 and 28 percent. The 2012 elections’ turnout was 40%, which was recorded with the lowest in all age groups.

Despite the decline of youth participation, major political parties have been taking steps to galvanize young voters and political aspirants. The ruling Saenuri Party filed candidates under the age of 45 and had no record of having run in the past elections, while the opposition Minjoo Party has been pushing to lower the voting age from 19 to 18. Korea had lowered the suffrage age from 20 to 19 in 2005.

The Young Candidates in the 2020 General Election

In the 2020 General Election, young candidates disregarded again and only 1.2 percent of the candidates in their 20s were nominated for the nation’s 21st general elections and only 5 percent were in their 30s. Even though older generation politicians promised to expand women and youth participation in every election, these kinds of promises have never been kept.

Especially, hard-working younger politicians are mostly neglected while more influential and incumbent lawmakers dominate constituencies with higher possibilities of winning due to the younger generations’ lack of experiences. Because political parties set more value on securing seats in the national assembly, South Korea’s election has fewer female and young candidates while the politicians are more obsessed with winning than making a generational shift.


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