The Korea Herald


Seoul voters share their thoughts  

SNS, TV debates, friends’ opinions key factors affecting voter decisions

By (공용)코리아헤럴드

Published : June 4, 2014 - 23:42

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The hallways of Seoul Gyeongun School, a polling station in central Seoul, was packed with voters Wednesday afternoon. The majority were senior citizens in their 60s and 70s, some in wheelchairs, as well as young women in their 20s.

Among the voters were mothers with their young children, young couples holding hands and a restaurant worker wearing an apron, having just left work. Benches were provided for voters to sit on while waiting. Many fanned themselves with papers, trying to keep cool in the hot weather.

Some were surprised by the long line. “I thought the line would be short in the afternoon,” said a voter in his 50s.

The Korea Herald visited four polling stations in Seoul on Wednesday, speaking to voters in different age groups. Among other things, SNS, TV debates of the candidates and friends’ opinions turned out to be key factors that affected their decisions, they said. Personal experiences also mattered.
Voters stand in line at a polling station line in Yeouido, southeastern Seoul, Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald) Voters stand in line at a polling station line in Yeouido, southeastern Seoul, Wednesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

“When I was in elementary school, I witnessed some of my friends skipping their lunches because their parents couldn’t provide them,” said a female voter in her 20s. The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, voted for Park Won-soon.

“I just want all children to be fed, without having to worry about it. Park approved the bill to offer free school meals to all children. I support his decision.”

Song Byeong-seon, a male voter in his 60s, said he did not vote for Chung Mong-joon, the Saenuri Party Seoul mayoral candidate, although he’s been a supporter of the ruling party.

“I picked someone new this time, because life has become complicated and difficult with the current government,” Song, who said he lived in poverty, told The Korea Herald.

“Chung Mong-joon grew up in an affluent and happy environment. He says he understands the needs of the ordinary citizens, but how well can he actually do that -- coming from such a different background?”

Friends’ opinions also mattered. Kim Myeong-seon, a mother in her 50s, said her decision was affected by her friends with school-age children. “All of my children have grown up and they are no longer in school,” she told The Korea Herald.

“So I thought mothers with schoolchildren would know better. I asked about their opinions and concluded that it’s better to vote for someone who has a lot of experience in the field of education.”

On Jejudo Island, a 115-year-old resident turned out to vote, assisted by her 80-year-old son. Ambulances and tractors were used to transport the handicapped and residents from remote areas.

In Sindang-dong Community Service Center, another polling station in Seoul, almost all voters in the morning were senior citizens. It was quieter than other locations.

“We generally get a lot of senior citizens,” said Yoon Chang-ho, a high school student who has been volunteering as a guide for voters for the past three years.

“From my own experience, I think the elderly are more enthusiastic about politics than the younger population.”

One of the voters at the station, who was in his 60s, said he wanted to support President Park Geun-hye by voting.

“I don’t understand why people blame (her) for the sinking of the Sewol,” he said. “It’s the individuals in charge who are responsible for it. Not Park’s government. I always supported her party and voted for their candidates.”

TV debates also played a factor. “I really don’t like any of the candidates this year,” said a male voter in his 40s. “I watched TV debates to make my decision. I didn’t really think any of them had a point in their arguments. I just voted to prevent the worst.”

Meanwhile, celebrities posted photographs of themselves at polling stations to encourage the public to vote. Citizens also took pictures, but sometimes for different reasons. A group of students in their 20s at Seoul Gyeongun School were only at the station to take pictures of themselves and post them on SNS. “I feel so proud that so many people showed up to vote,” said one of them, who said he “does not have the right” to vote.

As it turns out, SNS was not only used to post pictures. “I learned about the candidates through information I saw on SNS about social issues,” said Jang Joon-hyun, said a male voter in his 30s.

Meanwhile, some senior voters found the election’s seven-page ballot cards -- for mayors, governors, councilors and education superintendents -- confusing and hard to figure out.

“I can’t even remember who I voted for because there were just too many pages,” said a senior voter at Chongdeok Girls’ Middle School, a polling station in central Seoul.

Voter Song at Seoul Gyeongun School had the same problem.

“The process was complicated and inconvenient,” he said.

Lee Won-hoon, a voting officer at Chongdeok Girls’ Middle School, said voters seemed to take more time in the voting booth for Wednesday’s election than during the presidential election in 2012.

“I think 50 out of 100 voters today are taking their time in the booths,” he said. “They may not know who they want to vote for. Senior voters may have a hard time with their seven-page ballot cards.”

By Claire Lee and Suh Ye-seul
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