Korea‘s Youth Hope Plan
According to the New York Times, many people, as young as 20 years old, won municipal seats in the recently concluded Russian general election. Originally inspired to politics through their opposition to Vladimir Putin but not satisfied with street protests alone, these young people actually entered into the fray and, lo and behold, won.
As the article says, it’s not exactly a revolution, but it represented a notable cultural change in Moscow politics. Well, hold on to your seats because a genuine youth-driven political revolution could be coming soon to an electoral box near you in Korea!
The revolution is called the Youth Hope Plan, and it’s the name of a real political party. The leadership group consists of core volunteers who formed the support team for the famous ``Youth Concerts” last year that propelled Ahn Cheol-soo to political fame and a possible shot at being South Korea’s next president, when or if he should run.
The young people who made the ``Youth Concerts” are not waiting around while Ahn makes his decision. In fact, they are not waiting around for any ``elders” or ``mentors” to make their decisions. They have made own decision right here and now, and that is to form a political party of the (young) people, by the (young) people, and for the (young) people.
As their party platform says (my own translation), ``The Republic of Korea succeeded in both industrialization and democratization in short order. Korea’s success was only possible through the diligence and sacrifice of previous generations. The youth of Korea are proud of our country being held up as a growth model for the rest of the world. The youth of Korea pays its utmost respect to the contributions of the previous generations in making this happen.
``On the flip side of Korea’s success, however, the difficult challenges faced by our youth are being neglected. Today’s youth are stuck in a hopeless cycle of tuition, employment, marriage and child rearing that makes each and every day into an exercise in uncertainty and anxiety, let alone the future.”
In short, the young people of Korea are taking matters into their own hands because the decision-making generations in Korea have neglected to address their needs. Young people are no longer satisfied with the street theater of demonstrations or serving as a window dressing to the existing power structure. They want their own voice to be a part of the political mix.
This doesn’t mean that they are politically naïve. In fact, they are very realistic about their chances against entrenched powers. But the Youth Hope Plan leadership realizes that the success of their efforts shouldn’t be measured solely by how many seats they ultimately win. The success is already embedded in the actual process of taking ownership of their own future by using the tools that are available to them, instead of relying on others to speak on their behalf.
Youth Hope Plan’s focus on the importance of the process is shown by the innovative online decision-making procedure. From choosing candidates to selecting meeting agenda, everything will be done in a fair, inclusive, and transparent way through an online platform.
This is not exactly new. Online social media have already been used by many others around the world, including the Jasmine Revolution, to organize, reach consensus, and mobilize. But the Youth Hope Plan is different in that it’s actually a political party, not just a movement. The process of engagement ― discussion, consensus forming, negotiation, decision-making ― will all occur online and be acted on as a unified political party. That is new. And something worth learning about.
Annabel Park, an award-winning Korean-American filmmaker who was the national coordinator for the grassroots campaign to pass the "comfort women" resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 and then went on in 2010 to found the Coffee Party, a grassroots network of over 500,000 people working to restore ``civility, democracy and economic security" to US politics, thought so highly of this youth-driven effort that she will volunteer for them and also document their work when she visits Seoul in March and April.
Park says, “I think they're really onto something big: a youth-driven, Internet-based, political party to shape a forward-looking national agenda taking the needs and ideas of the youth into account. This can and should happen in every country including the U.S. I'm excited to meet them and learn from them.”
In a week since its official start, the Youth Hope Plan has registered over 6,000 party members in five cities and/or provinces to meet all the legal requirements to establish a political party.
It still remains to be seen how this innovative effort will pan out. But whatever the result, you know that you are witnessing history. I, for one, am grateful for the ringside seat. I hope that they go and knock ’em cold!
Jason Lim is a Washington, D.C.-based consultant in organizational leadership, culture, and change management. He has been writing for The Korea Times since 2006. He can be reached at email@example.com and on facebook.com/jasonlim2000.