Jeong is an undergraduate student attending Korea University (KU) and majors in German Language and Literature. He has keen insight and a humble attitude that won the hearts of Yongin citizens. His appearance as a young politician on the political scene signifies a bright future for the younger generation as he showed that age is not an obstacle in reaching one’s aspirations.
The youngest city councilor is a student from KU. He made his mark in politics as the secretary of parliament and worked his way up to become an inspiration for the future young politicians. His adventurous personality reflects the path he hopes his career takes. The Granite Tower (GT) interviewed Jeong to ask questions on behalf of everyone who dreams of becoming a future politician.
GT: It is uncommon for a university student to decide to become a city councilor. Was there a special reason why you wanted to become a politician as an ordinary KU student?
Jeong: Although I did not have any previous experiences in politics, I was confident that when people with united minds come together, changes can be made. In 2011, I was part of the Korea University Student Union (KUSU). The main issue we dealt with at that time was reducing the tuition fee in half. At first, I thought it was impossible, but I still went along with it. Then, something unbelievable happened. For the first time in KU history, tuition was reduced although it was by a small amount. That was when I learned that a group of people can provoke a substantial change.
GT: As a student from KU, what does KU mean to you?
Jeong: KU has always been my dream university. When I got accepted, I was prouder and happier than anyone else. I also, lived in Anam for a while so everything surrounding KU feels like home. In short, KU for me is like my second home. I feel like I will come back here to refresh my thoughts and gain strength when I feel lost.
GT: Presumably, now you will spend more time as a city councilor than as a KU student. What is the most memorable memory you have made that you will miss the most?
Jeong: I used to be a part of the KU cheerleaders so I miss cheering in Ipselenti –Jiya Hamsung and the Annual Ko-Yon Games. I miss the passion and the spirit of the students who have so much pride in their school. In fact, I actually go to Ipselenti with my friends almost every year. I also miss small things about KU. For example, the buildings, the roads that lead to classes and the feeling of being comfortable in the middle of the city
are what I miss the most as a KU student.
GT: What were the difficulties of participating in an election as a student? What did you learn from the election process?
Jeong: To be honest, the financial difficulties were one of the biggest difficulties. In order to run for city council, you can only use a certain amount of money. A lot of candidates that were running complained about how low the financial limit is. However, since I am a student, I used way less than the limit to promote myself. Throughout the election process, I learned that many young people got interested in the election because I was part of it. When someone of their age is in it, I realized that the younger generation pays more attention to what is happening on the political scene.
GT: People often refer to you as the “young councilor,” or the “youngest councilor.” What do you think of these titles? Do you think your young age benefits you as a politician?
Jeong: The term “youngest councilor” makes me feel like I am the representative of the people in their 20s. In terms of age, I am in the minority. Thus, I have the responsibility to make the right first step so that people in my age group have the confidence to work and gain the trust of the citizens. So, in a way, this make me feel responsible. However, my age can come in handy in meetings. Since I do not have experience in the field of politics , I do not have many acquaintances on the scene. If I knew a lot of people, it would be hard for me to decline their requests or go against what they say. I think my age gives me the freedom to do what I want and lead changes.
GT: What are some of the difficulties you have had to deal with working in the field of politics?
Jeong: When I participate in meetings, I am in the same room as government authorities such as the directors of a bureau. The atmosphere in there is very heavy and uncomfortable for me. During the meetings, I feel like a foreigner who goes to a local restaurant. In short, I feel like an outsider on the political scene. However, other senior members in the meeting also feel uneasy when they see me. Although it is difficult now, I think I am in the process of adapting. Hopefully, it will get better soon.
GT: Do you have any ironclad rules as a city councilor?
Jeong: My number one rule is to work with integrity. I do not do anything that can hurt my reputation or dignity. Most people say decisions in politics are made when politicians drink at night. As for me, I avoid those places and leave work by six or seven o’clock. Moreover, as a city councilor I think it is my job to meet the younger generation. There are numerous politicians concerned for the older generation, but not so much for the younger generation. If I do not talk with people in their teens or 20s, their voices may not be heard. Therefore, I would like to familiarize myself with the issues of the younger generation.
GT: What are some of the goals that you want to achieve as a city councilor?
Jeong: Once becoming a city councilor, many are focused on attaining higher social standing. However, if I find passion for something else, I am willing to take a different path. Currently though, in my four-year-term, I would like the young people to know the roles of a cit y councilor. Unfortunately, many are unaware of what I do and where I work. It is my job, therefore, to let them know I have influence and can be efficient. My goal is to do my best as a city councilor so that many more know about it than that it simply exists.
GT: Finally, if you have anything to say to KU students, please share with us!
Jeong: I would like students to find what they want to do during their free time. To figure this out, you need to participate in club actives and meet different people. It is important to find your interest, especially when you get a job. By doing so, you can have actual fun during weekends or break time. For me, I like to watch musicals, indie band concerts, read, listen to music at a café and so on. If you do not figure out what your interests are, you might be spending meaningless time when you get some time off work. So, go out there and gain as much experience as you can!