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PSPD    People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

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  • 2001.07.31
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Vision for the Outreach and Development of Civil Society

Yang Se-Jin (PSPD) 


1. Introduction

During the last century, democracy in Korea has progressively developed. Overcoming division and dictatorship, the people have transformed their suffering into an opportunity to change society through their courage and wisdom. Following the June Democracy Struggle in 1987, which underlined the importance of democracy as a necessity of the times, eagerness to reform burst out from every sector of society. This was the very foundation of the civil society today in Korea.

Despite this rapid increase in energy for democracy in the Korean society, it was not enough to thoroughly reform the old and corrupt framework. However, the earnest belief that active citizens' power can change the world made it possible to build an alliance of numerous civil organizations located throughout the country. Based on the diverse experience over the years, especially during Civil Action for General Election 2000 in Korea (CAGE), the civil society has gathered their energy to build the Solidarity Network. Solidarity Network, a standing conference group of civil society organizations located throughout the country, is namely a representative of Korean civil society movement. Creative activities of each participating organization are respected and supported to attain open democracy. To gather the energy of participating citizens and to come together for the required minimum task to reform the society and country, Solidarity Network has been established as a means to accomplish this mission. In addition, Solidarity Network supports networking of civil society organizations by items and areas for autonomous exchange and enhancement of united activities to reform many areas.

For the sound development of civil organizations, Solidarity Network members encourages one another. To reform the authoritative system and practices which control today's civil society, Solidarity Network aids the building of a participatory democratic system for public interest based on citizens participation. In addition, for the accountability and moral appropriateness for the roles given to civil society movement, Solidarity Network will constantly reflect, criticize, and improve itself. Solidarity Network is aimed at changing old political practices which block the necessary reforms. For this purpose, Solidarity Network will work on reforming the political system and breaking down the distorted reality of local autonomy, which is greatly endangered. Through this effort, the foundation for true local autonomy and citizens participation will be established. Solidarity Network will focus on vision for development and outreach of civil society.

2. Three Major Projects

1. Local Autonomy Reform Movement

(1) Purpose


1) Because of its centrally-focused, central-controlling way of thinking, last year the Ministry of Government Affairs and Home Administration along with National Assembly members raised questions about appointing a Chairman for Local Autonomy. Local Autonomy had been reinstated 10 years ago, but the system is yet incomplete with much room for improvement. It is evident that anti-autonomy forces are causing local autonomy retrograde rather than improve with time. Therefore, systems in which citizens can directly participate, such as civil summons, civil election, and civil litigation, need to be adopted promptly. System reform is urgently needed for a healthier structured local autonomy.

2) There will be local and general elections in the year 2002. Local elections might be used as a pre-game and soil the general elections. In addition, the World Cup, which will be held jointly in Korea and Japan in June 2002, has the potential to be used by the central government for political purposes. Accordingly, for the growth of local autonomy there should be efforts to stand up to the central government's illogical arguments and attempts to use local elections as a pre-game.

3) Overcoming centralization of power, standardization, and bureaucracy through reform movements for local autonomy, allowing creative experimentation by each local government ensuring the flourishing of a true democracy of diversity and originality.

(2) Direction of the Local Autonomy Reform

1) Distorted structure needs to be changed.

2) Local autonomy needs to be supported and local governments and assemblies need to transform anew.

3) The movement needs to be carried out according to each locale.

4) Each participating citizen will grow through movement.

(3) Local Autonomy Reform Campaigns

1) Reform of local autonomy related laws
- to strengthen systems for civil participation: civil summons, civil election, civil litigation
- to broaden the boundary in the legislation of regulations
- to specialize the role of local assemblies
- to make sure special subsidies are executed openly and clearly
- to downgrade the degree of imposing of the budget planning guideline 


2) Government and Assembly Evaluating Activities
- to evaluate ability and quality of local chairpersons and assembly members, and policies

3) Researching the responsibility of a civil society in preparation for the local elections in 2002
- to develop a healthy local autonomy through the local election in 2002, public opinions and practical ideas need to be searched and gathered.

2. Political System Reform Projects

(1) Purpose


1) Even after the civil actions carried out during the General Election in 2000, some politicians are still repeating old customs. Because of these practices, reforms in economy and politics have piled up with no hope of getting worked out, and it is falling upon civil organizations to solve these problems. The fact that reform in politics still has a long way to go is not merely a problem in politics. It affects the entire society. Therefore reform in politics needs to be done promptly.

(2) Direction

Common action all over the country for amendment and legislation of election related laws for upcoming local and general elections is needed promptly to reform the old political system and guarantee the participation of voters.

(3) Outline

Amendment of 3 major laws related to politics; Providing group plans for amendment of Election Law, Politics Fund Law, and Political Party Law

3. Revitalization of Civil Society; Vision and Task for the Growth and Prosperity of Civil Society

As a new age and new civil movement begins, Solidarity Network provides a framework of how the Korean civil society needs to progress.

1) Project to build an infrastructure for Civil Society
- Examine Governmental support system
- Recruit experts as committee members of Solidarity Network so that Solidarity Network can serve as idea bank for a Civil Society.

① Establish a system to screen NGOs
Currently, civil society does not have a proper system to examine and verify itself. However, for a well-established organization it is necessary to have a self-examination and self-verification system. Not only in accepting member organizations into the Solidarity Network, but also for other various elements, such as transparency in organization operations, impartiality in decision-making and policy-making, its nature of not making profit through their activities, its morality as a civil organization, need to be examined to improve the quality of the organizations. This process is crucial in gaining the trust and support of the people.

② Employ a tax-deduction system to indirectly support the activities of civil society organizations
- Tax-deduction is a important element in promoting financial contribution to civil organizations.

③ Build NGO Center
As seen in case of Japan, NGO centers provided by local government enables small organizations to interact and exchange their activities with each other. In this way the activities of each organization becomes vitalized. This contributes to the development of a participatory democracy, and ultimately, the healthy growth of a society.

④ Adopt a Postal Saving System similar to what the Post Office in Japan has.
- Install civil organization booths in public facilities, such as post offices and local district offices, to introduce NGOs to the people. Establish a system for accepting donations. (For example, a system that enables people to give a portion of the interest earned from saving accounts to civil society organizations.)

⑤ Support non-governmental foundations
Support from non-governmental foundations helps civil society organizations to be politically independent
- Look for ideas to work together with existing non-governmental foundations such as Women's Foundation, Beautiful Foundation, Civil Movement Support Fund, Human Rights Foundation, etc.

⑥ Examine self-supporting ways
- Study and analyze the cases of Philosophy Caf Neutinamu, Children's Sports Club, and Citizen Education Programs of the YMCA to develop various models.
⇒ Each organization can search for their own way to support themselves according to the nature of the organization. For example, environment organizations can operate environment-friendly facilities to support themselves financially.

⑦ Become an incubator for new civil society organizations
- Provide well-organized manuals and programs to support newly set up civil organizations
⇒ Train professional consultants for this purpose
- Encouragement and support to establish many civil society organizations throughout the country.

⑧ Establish an NGO Information Center for activists, civil society researchers, and people in general.

2) Continuing Education for Activists

① Activists are at the core of the movement. Human resource is the power to compete.
- Provide and support an environment in which activists can work with and develop their visions and missions.
- Continuing education and leadership development are crucial tasks for the Solidarity Network to allow a continuity of movement and vitalization of the entire civil society. Systematic management and support for continuing education in local solidarity networks is especially needed.
- to prepare financially and structurally for activists stable and well-organized programs for welfare, payment, continuing education, basic rights, spiritually recharging opportunities, overseas education etc.
- for motivating scholarships for masters, doctoral, or other professional study opportunities, even abroad.

② Operate schools for activists immediately
- Prepare education programs and facilities that enables a systematic education for civil society activists throughout the world. Prepare one or two-week camps 2-4 times a year for activists to study, discuss, and nurture spirituality and ability to imagine, sense, discern, and introspect.
- Activists School is prepared for 4 different levels.
⇒ Education for incoming activists; virtues, attitude and ethical code required for civil movement activists, for establishment of their own vision and sense of calling as activists, etc.
⇒ Education for current activists; education to develop activists vision and spirituality
⇒ Leadership Education for leading activists; Career does not automatically make an activist a leader. Learning only skills needed for leadership training, personnel management, organization management, fundraising, membership management, and policy planning and enforcement is not enough to be a dependable and influential leader. Solidarity Network prepares required programs for hard training and systematic reflection
⇒ Leadership Education for top leaders; Top leaders such as secretary-generals and representatives share together in their difficulty. How important is a true leader for an organization and for the development and richness of the entire civil society?
- To run a stable and well-organized school for activists, developing appropriate programs and teaching staffs is urgently needed. Looking for financial resources to invest in the facility also needs to be done in an efficient way.

③ Run school for activists in cooperation with related programs already existing in colleges.
- Give commission to universities, such as Sungkonghoe University, KyungHee University, Hanyang University which already have NGO Studies in their graduate schools, to educate entering and existing activists, leaders and representatives.
- Universities that have NGO Studies in their undergraduate curricula, such as Ewha Womans University and Sungkonghoe University, can provide a systematic guidebook and management system. At the same time the Solidarity Network can introduce the students at these universities to member NGOs for their internship.

④ Open an annual conference and festival for activists throughout the country to share information and build relationship and solidarity

3) Well-Developed Civil Society Preconditions Participating and Practicing and Mature Citizens

① Reach out to citizens from inside civil organizations. Plan and utilize Public Access, which was legalized last May, for citizen-friendly movements

② Declare one civil organization a citizen movement and extend throughout the country.
- Cooperate with the press, utilize Solidarity Networks homepage on the Internet so that every citizen in Korea can participate in at least one civil organization.
- Develop programs that includes people from diverse backgrounds, such as laborers, farmers, women, etc.   

- Produce publicizing materials in various forms, such as paper, video, music, etc.
- Produce programs also for the students from Kindergarten up to high school since they are members of the civil society of the future. Help them to have a class in which they can discuss, reflect, and learn how to become a participating and practicing citizens. Produce programs for teachers accordingly for this purpose.

3. Closing Words

Along with the projects described above, the Solidarity Network supports projects for Korea politics reform and revitalization of civil society, education reform such as amendment of Private School Law, amendment of regular publications law, press reform movement such as establishing a press committee in the National Assembly. Encountering the new millennium, the Solidarity Network, as a standing body for alliance of civil society organizations in Korea, will have to plan not only projects regarding internal issues but also those responsible for the outreach and development of civil society throughout Asia. Also, based on the network of Asian civil societies, the network will be extending to ally with civil society organizations of the world. Building a well-developed and strong global civil society is an important task at which Korean civil society has to aim.


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