This composite file photo shows Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, Rep. Lee Nak-yon of the ruling Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun. (from L to R). (Yonhap)
Presidential hopefuls of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) are competing to woo support from young voters in the run-up to next year's election, as the party tries to recover lost confidence from 20- and 30-something voters as seen in its crushing defeat in last month's by-elections.
Rep. Lee Nak-yon, former prime minister and the DP's previous chairman, on Thursday proposed funneling state tax money procured from owners of high-priced homes, commonly referred to as the comprehensive real estate holding tax, into housing programs for young people and single-person households.
Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung, the current front-runner among DP's prospective presidential candidates, on Tuesday floated the idea of providing subsidies of up to 10 million won ($8,900) in global travel expenses for high school graduates who have opted not to go to college.
Former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun also said last month that he was in the process of designing a program of offering up to 100 million won to each young person seeking financial independence from their parents through an individualized 20-year bank account installment program.
The sudden rush of youth-themed policy ideas from three of the DP's key presidential hopefuls has come amid a sudden plunge in confidence among young voters toward the ruling party, as evident in the results of the April 7 Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections.
According to a joint exit poll conducted by three major broadcasters on election day, Oh Se-hoon, then opposition Seoul mayor candidate, dominated his DP rival Park Young-sun 55.3 percent to 34.1 percent among voters in their 20s, and 56.5 percent to 38.7 percent among 30-something voters.
Just among male voters in their 20s, Oh, the current Seoul mayor, received a staggering 72.5 percent of support in the exit poll. Such results have been especially painful for the DP, as younger voters have predominantly supported liberal candidates in the past.
Opposition figures, however, have criticized such proposals as being outright populist ideas.
Yoo Seung-min, a former lawmaker and member of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), said in a recent meeting with the party's freshmen legislators that the three DP presidential hopefuls were "engaged in a competition of handout policies" and noted that the PPP's policy should move toward promoting economic growth.
Independent Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, a former PPP chairman, also blasted the ideas of the DP presidential hopefuls.
"(The three) are fighting over courting young voters with small change. The people and the youths will no longer be deceived (by such populist proposals)," Hong wrote on Facebook.
The policy ideas have also been met with critique from some of the DP's own members.
DP Rep. Park Yong-jin wrote on Facebook that the public will not agree with the ideas if they are perceived as programs of blindly handing out state coffers.
"I hope that the party's policy direction does not move towards the notion of how much money could be handed out, instead of moving towards improving the systems and recovering lost hope," Park said.
DP Rep. Lee Kwang-jae, another prospective presidential hopeful, also said that he saw the idea of using cash to solve the problems of the youth generation as problematic.
"It's as if we are trying to give our children pocket money when they are actually asking to talk to us and seeking our attention," Lee said. (Yonhap)