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Is Indifference a kind of Participation?

The meaning of political participation

Cha, Hyun-jeong 기자2012.06.19 14:08:49

People tend to have negative impressions of politics. This is because they are usually disappointed by politicians’ behaviors, such as taking bribes, allowing and hiding corruption. As people become more skeptical and distrust politicians, they may not vote for anyone or even get interested in political issues. This has become a serious social problem which needs to be solved in a hurry. Being unconcerned about politics can cause problems. If people regard political participation as useless, there will be a lot of crooked politicians filled with corruptions.

What should we do to eradicate these bad conventions? One possibility is to give more attention to political events and to participate more in them. This may prevent election bribery and other wrongdoings. The public, however, might wonder how it could possibly work. There are some examples which show us that participating in politics makes the political field much cleaner. Recently, the main opposition Democratic Unified Party (DUP) held an election which was reformed and open to ordinary citizens to vote with their mobile phones. It was different from previous elections which had been implemented only through party member’s votes. According to the result, it is not an exaggeration to say that the turnout was more than doubled from what had been predicted because of this move.

Remarkably, another advantage to this voting system is that it leaves a lot of chances to uproot vote-buying, which is a bad practice in domestic political parties. This has been known as the ‘money envelope’ scandal. The reason why the political world is often fraught by corruption is the addiction called ‘money.’ There are lots of advantages from money elections. For instance, this enables politicians to get an easy access to being nominated during the general election. However, the DUP’s election made it possible for citizens to select someone who they really wanted. That is, the election through a mobile election kills two birds with one stone, blocking election corruption and increasing public participation. As citizens take part in voting for candidates who they support, this system becomes an alternative that can block corruption or bribery in the political world.

In another example of preventing political corruption by making the public participate in political issues, the 2011 Seoul mayoral election was held successfully by utilizing Social Network Services (SNS). Park Won-soon, one of the candidates, who became the mayor of Seoul, was able to communicate with people via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other interconnected sites. He also shared his thoughts about social issues online and it was called ‘Power of SNS.’ Although the correlation between SNS voting and political participation does not seem obvious and is not proved by evidential groundings, this phenomenon might have a great impact on the whole political area and in future elections.

What does the result of the Seoul mayoral election mean? The thing we have to focus on is not just the outcome but the process during the last election. This consequence showed the highest voting figures in Korean history recorded during the early morning when commuters, who are relatively young and use SNS, voted before they went to work. The voter turnout and public participation was highly increased by using SNS sites and now it is considered as a powerful tool in the political world. Another advantage is that it enables parties to reflect on voters’ opinions when selecting their leaders and presidential candidates for the general and presidential elections. If the candidates with public support win the election, the wide gap between the needs of the public and the resulting elected parties will narrow someday.

Is non-participation regarded as a kind of participation? Someone might say no and others yes. Those who say yes mentioned non-participation as a right of common people in democratic society. This is not a complete answer, but we had better concentrate on why people are likely to be indifferent to politics. Firstly, standardized political practices and structures causes nonparticipation and this is normally recognized by people as one main problem of political apathy. On the other hand, voters tend to overlook the existence of their ‘free will,’ which stimulates them to elect candidates by themselves. The public who do not realize this free will make nonparticipation reasonable, only because of the external factors such as aversion to political corruption. It is a concealed reason of voter political apathy during elections.

It has a great meaning for us to greet this year since there are two elections, the general election which was implemented in April and December’s presidential election, coming up soon. We have some opportunities to change current policies and correct other shortcomings in the political area. In short, we need to participate and vote for someone who is able to fulfill these needs. Last but not least, citizens should not take on an air of indifference to wrongdoings in the political area. They have to revise their apathetic attitudes toward politics, in order to live in a society with ‘clean politics.’

[No.344]
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