NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on Welcoming the Adjustment on the Electoral Eligibility
-A meaningful step towards achieving adolescent’s participation rights in politics... the eligibility of joining a political party still needs adjustment -
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song) hereby releases Chairperson’s statement welcoming the passing of the partial amendment draft to the ‘Public Official Election Act’ in a plenary session at the National Assembly.
As the finalized partial amendment draft passed on 27 December 2019, the 18-year-olds in Korea were able to exercise their voting rights for the first time at the parliamentary election in April 2020.
However, the age of electoral eligibility which allows a person to run for an election still remains at 40 and over for a presidential election, according the Constitution of the Republic of Korea. The ‘Election of National Assembly Members Act’ states that one has to be over 25 years old to be eligible to run for a parliamentary election and the same age limit is stipulated for the local election on the ‘Local Council Members Act’. The acts show that the limitations exist in the adolescents participating in politics.
The political environment young people experience in Korea is quite different from what young people living in other members states of the OECD are experiencing. Over half of the OECD member states(around 55.3%), including Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have set the age of electoral eligibility at 18.
Basic political rights cover all political rights which ensure the people’s participation in political activities, including the right to freely express one’s political views and the right to participate in political decision making process. Democracy continues to push the members of the societies to work towards expanding the boundaries of basic political rights for all. Such rights as voting rights and electoral eligibility are the basic rights that everyone should be able to enjoy as a member of the democratic society.
With the passing of the partial amendment draft to the ‘Public Official Election Act’ at the National Assembly’s plenary session on 31 December 2021, the political rights for the adolescents in Korea have been further expanded, as a person over 18 is now able to run for a local governmental election. The decision should be highly commended as it upholds the value of our Constitution. It is all the more meaningful as the amended act ensures the right for the adolescents to participate in a political decision making process as the representative, not just as the voter.
However, there are still room for improvements, including the adjustment in age allowed to join a political party stated in the ‘Political Parites Act’ and lowering the electoral eligibility age for presidential election. An adolescent who becomes 18 on the day of the election being recommended by a party as the candidate for an election would be essentially impossible, since you have to pass 18-year-old threshold to be a member of a political party, according to the ‘Political Parites Act’. In the current setting, underaged candidate also need legal representative in order to utilize his or her political fund.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will do its utmost to enhance the adolescents’ rights of participating in political decision making process and assist them in becoming more involved citizens in the democratic society. I hope the ‘Public Official Election Act’ amendment will become an important milestone for promoting the political rights for the adolescents in Korea.