South Korea: 18-year-olds now eligible to run for local and national parliamentary elections

High school seniors can run for South Korea’s National Assembly, thanks to legislation passed Friday that lowered the age of eligibility for national and local elections to 18 from 25.

The minimum age for presidential candidates will remain at 40.

The change follows the lowering of the voting age to 18 from 19 in 2019. Young people had pushed for reducing the minimum age of candidates as well, to close the gap.

The move was proposed in November by Lee Jun-seok, the 36-year-old leader of the conservative People Power Party, South Korea’s largest opposition party.

The ruling progressive Democratic Party quickly agreed, and the bill moved unusually swiftly through parliament, passing with overwhelming support.

With young voters expected to play a pivotal role in the presidential election coming up in March, lawmakers did not wish to risk alienating this group by opposing a measure to promote youth participation in politics.

While South Korean voters 60 and older lean conservative, and progressives are supported by 40-somethings, many millennial and Generation Z voters remain independent, reflecting dissatisfaction with their political options.

A number of developed countries have taken similar steps over the past several years. France in 2011 lowered the age of eligibility for its lower house of parliament to 18 from 23, and the UK dropped its threshold for the House of Commons and local elections to 18 from 21.