Special Report – Youth Policies of Jeju
Date of report: November 17, 2016 (Interviewed in August to November 2016)
Culture reporter: Kang Gwi-woong
“Um, we’re here for the Jeju Youth Roundtable.” This diffident answer came out as a response to the question, “How may I help you?” asked at the entrance of Jeju Provincial Office building. Casually dressed young men and women were visiting a corridor that was normally frequented by those in suits. The guards might well have been bewildered by the scene. What was the purpose of their visit to the Provincial Office? In this Special Report, I’d like to introduce to you the youth-oriented policies of Jeju Province and the activities of local youth.
The term ‘youth’ is already familiar to many people in Korea. Leading politicians proposed bills on youth support projects, such as ‘Youth Allowance’ and ‘Youth Dividend’, which brought about heated social discussions. Local governments enacted their respective legal frameworks, a so-called Ordinance on Youth Policies. Youth governance became a mainstream in different regions, encouraging young men and women to not just engage in policymaking procedures but also to create policies on their own.
On the other hand, it has not been long since the local communities of Jeju began discussing ‘youth’ issues. Though there have been groups of young men and women who have sporadically worked on their individual projects, administrative cooperation was hard to achieve. The Basic Framework Ordinance on Youth was legislated on June 22, 2016, followed by the creation of the related provincial division on July 28, 2016. The Province also opened a new communication channel entitled ‘The Jeju Youth Roundtable’. It was the birth of ‘Jeju-style youth policies’.
On August 23, Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong and local youth met for the first time. In the meeting, the young men and women of Jeju shared many different ideas with the Governor, hoping to connect with the provincial policymakers about the difficulties they had experienced in their daily lives. They suggested the creation of ‘hot lines’ for communication with the Governor, including opening ‘a group chat room’ via a mobile messenger service. The Governor was also asked to give them a chance to collaborate with him on policymaking and development of the local community.
Nearly 50 local young men and women, and public employees who are responsible for youth issues lead the Jeju Youth Roundtable. The first two general meetings framed the overall management. The Committees (for Engagement and Capacity Building/Jobs/Community/Housing/Culture) have since held discussions and debates. The Roundtable has also worked to strengthen local youth capacity by holding the 2030 Youth Networking Party, the Workshop on Other Regional Cases, and the 2017 Budget Meeting for Youth Projects. The provincial channel for the youth reflected the results into actual youth policies, one by one.
Most young men and women have insufficient time to accomplish the tasks given to them throughout the different stages of their life-cycle, including finishing schools, finding jobs, getting married, and buying houses. The youth in the contemporary era are considered the busiest generation ever in Korea. They find it even more difficult to raise their voices on social issues due to the current social structure. The same applies to their participation in the Jeju-style youth policies. It requires the sacrifice of their time, money, and a lot of energy.
Members of the Committee for Engagement and Capacity Building of the Jeju Youth Roundtable point out the strength of the young generation participating in the Committee. One member said, “When living in Jeju, I have found some local and structural issues related to my life. I’ve seen other experience the same specific issues in their lives. Then it occurred to me that these issues remained unsolved because we failed to get together and share them. I joined the Committee because it gives me a chance to get face to face with administers in order to reflect our voices in the policies.”
Jeju has a broad range of social issues of different types and characteristics, including housing, traffic, job, and environment. These can be considered as “youth issues” that the young generation who will lead he future can tackle. The young finally began raising their voices on the recent social issues, as a result of policies determined by the old that did not meet their needs. Their ideas aren’t radical, wishing to alter the fabric of society. Rather they are looking for basic ways to help solve the issues in their lives. Their voices are now beginning to be heard by the society and the people.