In South Korea's "Exam Village" young voters yearn for change

Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:25pm EST
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - Living on $2 bowls of rice in rows of tiny rooms, thousands of young South Koreans are voting early ahead of Wednesday's presidential election as they cram for exams that they hope will lead to a government job for life.

There are 30,000 residents of a drab neighbourhood of the South Korean capital known as Exam Village, where people preparing for tests for low-level civil service jobs have gravitated for years.

There is a growing sense of frustration among the young in a country where there are simply not enough jobs to go round, especially for graduates of less prestigious universities whose options are largely limited to the public sector.

That frustration might translate into votes for the leftist candidate, Moon Jae-in, who has promised more welfare, better education and taxes for the super-wealthy.

Moon is competing against Park Geun-hye from the ruling conservatives, who has pledged a continuation of current policies.

Opinion polls show the race is too close to call, with Park, the 60-year-old daughter of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, relying on older voters who tend to turn out in force, while Moon's chances might depend on more fickle younger voters.

They often can't be bothered to vote but that might be different this time.

In Exam Village, or Goshichon in Korean, there were so many young people who wanted to cast early ballots last week that extra polling booths had to be brought in.   Continued...

Young South Korean's cast their absentee ballot at a polling station in a Goshichon, which means "exam village" in Korean, in Seoul December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won