Internet power house Korea has finally set its e-foot in the domain of politics. There is no denying that the most prominent trend in the 2002 presidential election is the online organization of voters. Starting with presidential candidate Roh Mu Hyun's fan club 'Nosamo' that showed its power in the party candidate election, online political organizations such as the online political party Jeong Jeong Dang Dang (meaning 'fair and square') and 2030 Voters' Network all organize their members and carry out activities through the Internet. These organizations are particularly effective in drawing into the voters' movement people who can easily become politically disinterested, such as young people in their twenties and thirties as well as women. The methods used are diverse and experimental, and there is mounting interest in whether this kind of political experimentation will pave the way for a new prototype of participation in the presidential elections of the 21st century, an era of networking.
The 2030 Voters' Network (www.votefestival.org) that was launched in October 22 aims to reflect the political demands of the young generation in the election through policy recommendations by young workers and university student voters. Not only that, the Network has ambitiously set its sights on completely transforming the negative image of elections mired in bribery and cliques. The Network, consisting of groups such as the Korea Youth Buddhist Association, Evangelical Youth Council, Jeong Jeong Dang Dang and Headquarters for Campus Journalists, is working especially hard to get people in their twenties and thirties across the nation to vote. To this end, the Network is planning a campaign to get 1 million young people to pledge that they will vote, with the eye-catching slogan "Running out of bad words? Then VOTE!"
The campaign to get involved in the presidential election, organized by Internet users, is spreading far and wide as countless unorganized voters start to realize that it is time for them to show their power and will through their votes. The campaign leaders are also planning to "make the election a festival of communication" in order to overcome the political apathy of the young generation. In line with this motive, they are planning to hold a culture festival entitled 'Vote Festival' on November 30, with appearances by celebrities who have pledged to vote such as Yoon Do Hyun and Jang Na Ra. It is a typically youthful idea created in the effort to make politics a part of daily life.
These people form an even wider solidarity in the form of an independent organization called the 2002 Presidential Election Voters' Alliance, made up of more than 300 civic and social groups. Numerous experts anticipate sweeping changes in the presidential election landscape depending on the activities of the young people in their twenties and thirties, since they account for half the voting public. Experts also forecast that the diverse political experiments that the young generation is engaging in through the Internet will have a big influence on the presidential election.
A prime example is the political experiment of Jeong Jeong Dang Dang (www.jjdd.or.kr), the Internet political party under the 2030 Voters' Network. Jeong Jeong Dang Dang's public relations director Jeong Cheong Rae said on September 15 at the inauguration of the party, "The most attractive factors of an Internet political party are the low-cost high-efficiency mechanism for opinion gathering, unfettered discussions and easy access." Jeong went on to promise to "create a new space for political participation for the people of today." Launched with the idea of approaching politics the fun way, Jeong Jeong Dang Dang may be registered as a civic group, but on the Internet, it operates as a political party in every way. This is because it has a clear goal. Its strategic goal is to establish a citizens' network for politics in daily life, thereby organizing the power of Internet users. It intends to remain on neutral ground during the presidential election, like a cheerleader team such as the Red Devils. Explains Jeong, "We set such goals because like Nosamo or the Red Devils, both successful models of movement organization of the 21st century, an Internet base and free discussion through it have become an indispensable condition for any movement or organization."
Unlike Jeong Jeong Dang Dang, the Reform People's Party that launched its founding preparatory committee on October 20 has announced that it will elect its own candidate to actually run in the presidential elections based on the Political Party Act, thereby going one step further than Jeong Jeong Dang Dang.
Cho Seong Rae, former Chair of the Busan Lawyers' Society and currently heading the Reform People's Party founding preparatory committee, declared a policy merge between the Reform People's Party and presidential candidate Roh Mu Hyun during the committee launching. Cho appealed, "It's such a pity that our party does not have a candidate of our own, but let's pool our strength to support candidate Roh, whose policies are geared in the same direction as ours, so that he will become the president of the ordinary people." The policy merge with candidate Roh was decided by a general vote that all the founding members of the Reform People's Party took part in from October 12 to 18 through the Internet and mobile communications. The Party appointed former Korea Women's Hotline president Son Lee Duk-Su, first Korea Teachers and Workers Union president Yoon Young Gyu, former Korea Farmers' League chairman Lee Su Geum and former Busan Lawyers' Society chairman Cho Seong Rae as the co-chairs of the founding preparatory committee.
Planning to launch the party around mid-November, the Reform People's Party has managed to expand the Internet community Nosamo into the offline world, establishing an organized framework for solidarity. There is active solidarity among regions, genders and sectors as well.
The Korea Women's Association United (KWAU), considered the progressive camp for women groups, launched the '2002 Presidential Election Women's Alliance' on October 25, together with more than a hundred member organizations nationwide including Womenlink Korea and Korea Women's Hotline. KWAU launched the Alliance because there are hardly any campaign policies for women in the presidential election, despite the fact that there are more female than male voters. The Alliance has chosen three core women's issues, namely the abolishment of the hoju system, employment stability and job creation, and the establishment of public childcare systems. Based on these three issues, the Alliance is planning campaigns such as calling on presidential candidates to include these issues in their campaign pledges and comparing and examining candidates' qualities and so on. The Alliance will also mobilize supporters among citizens who agree with the three issues, in order to conduct online campaigns encouraging people to vote and to look out for gender-equal candidates.
There is active solidarity in the local regions as well. The 2002 Daegu Citizens' Alliance for True Media (co-representatives Yeom Mu Woong, Choi Byeong Du, Bae Han Dong), launched on October 21, defined the upcoming presidential election as the period of the emergence of the low-cost high-efficiency media elections, and thus declared that it will concentrate on organizing citizens, the consumers of the media. This Alliance will be carrying out its activities through Ohmynews, an online media.
Recent surveys have shown that Internet media such as Ohmynews, Daum Communications and Yahoo! have emerged as influential media. As Internet gatherings and communities based on free online discussions transform into organized alliances, many people are watching the developments of the diverse experiments that young Internet users are engaging in. Of particular interest is whether this new trend will encourage young women to take an interest in politics.
It is important for a player to concentrate on playing a good game, but it is just as important to organize the majority of the citizens to applaud and cheer the players. The fresh ideas created by the young generation born in the Internet age are completely different from the conventional politics of changing alignments. And that is why we have hope.