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NO.409 07.16.2018

Student-Led ‘Grassroots Democracy’

Generally, younger generations have always shown little interest in elections. Just before the 7th local elections were to be held in Korea, the Central Election Management Committee administered a survey on ‘Level of Interest and Intent to Vote in Local Elections.’ In this survey, only about half (54.3%) of the 19-29 age group expressed a ‘definitive intent’ to vote. This is 15.7% lower than the average (70.9%) across all age groups, comprising the lowest intent to participate.

However, some students of the Department of Political Science organized into a social volunteer activities club named ‘Dong Medal (a bronze medal, hereafter DMD),’ which stands for Dongdaemun-gu, Manifesto Dalseong (achievement), are turning eyes as they get actively involved in local politics and stage events to encourage student participation in elections.

 


Political Science Department student club ‘DMD’ monitors local politics
The event was hosted for two days, from June 4 ? 5, both on online and offline. With the goal of reminding audiences of the meaning of elections and to incite student interest in the June 13 regional elections, Yeon-jin Kim (Political Science, ’16), President of DMD, was one of more than twenty DMD members who arranged the activities ranging from cloze exercises to election related quizzes. Students’ responses to the program have been positive.


By initiating the Manifesto campaign, DMD is also taking the lead in practicing grassroots Democracy. The word Manifesto has its etymological root in the Latin word ‘Manifestus,’ which means ‘evidence’ or ‘proof.’ Today, it refers to a public pledge with a specific budget and schedule. Hence, Manifesto is a civic campaign that evaluates the feasibility of the various election promises made by political candidates, and monitors and assesses whether elected officials keep their pledges.

Students of DMD work with Open Society Dongdaemun Citizens’ Assembly to monitor and evaluate elected officials, such as members of the National Assembly, the city council, the gu-Office, not to mention the Mayor of the gu-Office, in the Dongdaemun-gu constituency. The group investigates pledges made by the officials, assesses and shares their actions on their campaign promises. Using the assessment rubric developed by the club, as well as through joint evaluation and validation procedures developed with local civic groups, the findings are published to encourage citizens to participate in politics and to uphold policy accountability.

 


“True Democracy is realized through active interest and participation”
Student Yeon-jin Kim outlined the objective of the Manifesto movement: “While it is important for politicians to devise policies by hearing the voices of the citizens, it is equally important for citizens to monitor whether politicians are engaged in appropriate activities. Politics can impact an individual’s life, the life of a family, as well as its future generation. This is why we hope for more active interest and participation from the people.”


Professor Jungkun Seo, who supervises DMD, shared his pride of the club. He said, “DMD was voluntarily established and put into action by the students in the Department of Political Science. Through politics learned in the field, as opposed to classroom instructions, they find excitement about the study of politics and seek inroads into their social careers. I take great pride in these students.”

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