These days, Korean teenagers are suffering from extensive preparation for university entrance examinations, and university students are having lots of troubles getting a job after graduation. Now, think about college students’ life in the 1960s and 1980s in Korea. That might be totally different from now.
In 1960, when the April 19th Revolution took place, college students had difficulties and different problems. The April 19th Revolution was an anti-dictatorship movement led by students and citizens. At that time, people’s discontent with then-president Rhee Syngman corrupt politics increased. This conflict erupted in the presidential elections on March, 15th, 1960. People from all over the country said that they could not recognize Rhee Syngman as president because he was elected through rigging the vote count. As a result, he resigned.
Likewise, when the May 18th Democratization Movement took place in 1980, it was very different from what democracy is today. It took place after the December 12th military coup, leading to a large-scale demonstration of college students demanding the lifting of martial law and calling for democratization. At first, it started with student demonstrations, and then with citizens joining forces, the movement grew. The 10 day Democratization Movement ended with numerous casualties due to a massive crackdown by martial law army forces.
Despite the active participation of citizens and students, the level of democratization in Korea does not seem very high. In the World Press Freedom Index, published by Freedom House, a U.S. human rights watchdog, the freedom of speech in Korea is the lowest among OECD countries. Korea was classified as ‘partly free’ with a total score of 32.
According to a broadcasting station in 2015, the freedom of the press in Korea ranked 30th out of 34 countries in OECD countries.However, in 2018, its index rank was 43rd out of 180 countries.
The democracy index surveyed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2018 was generally high in northern European countries. Norway ranked first and Iceland ranked second. Also, Norway, Sweden, and Finland were among the top-ranked in freedom of the press index.
What can we do as university students for the right democracy? The important thing is to participate in politics, and the easiest way to do this is by voting. Also, through SNS, many students have access to a lot of information about our politics. Franklin Pierce Adams said, “Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.” Being interested in politics will be important one step in the development of democracy in our country.