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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Socio-Economic
  • 2002.07.08
  • 901
On every Saturday from June 8th to June 29th, the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy holds Citizens School for Apartment Living. First of all, this school aims to help the apartment residents to recognize and exercise their right of claim about problems of reckless and hasty construction. Also, it tries to induce residents to participate in the management of the apartment and to have an experience of democratic decision-making procedure.

Since the first apartment was established in Seoul 1966, the apartment has been the most common type of housing in Korea; it made up 57.6% of total housing by the end of 1998. This upsurge of the number of apartments results from the high supply based on the quantity-first policy of the government and the high demand to possess it as a fortune-making method. While the increase of apartment enabled most Koreans to possess their own houses, living in the apartment was not as easygoing as people expected. Both the government and construction companies did not think of anything but founding as many apartments as possible. As a result of such hasty construction, most apartments had various problems such as a water leakage, din from other floors, and cracks in the wall. In some cases, it happened that the apartment was constructed differently from its design. In spite of these problems, most residents did not recognize that they had a right to claim for repairing because they regarded their houses as private property, which they are responsible to take care of. For the same reason, the government was also reluctant to become involved in the conflicts within multi apartments.

As a result, it was not until 1991 that a special committee including residents and the local assembly was established in Seoul. Since then, a lot of civil groups emerged to help residents to claim their rights and to create better surroundings. However, fragile organization and financial scarcity prohibited such movements from being sustainable. In this respect, 1999 was a pivotal turning point. First, the police investigated corruption of the residents representative committee and arrested more than 150 people. After this event, people became more interested and involved in the operation of the committee. Second, the National Commission for Rebuilding Korea designated the Apartment Communion movement as its official work and provided financial support.

The history of PSPD's participation in this movement dates back to 1998 when the Research Center for the Apartment Communion was established. Even though the center produced rudimentary texts to educate apartment residents, its operation has been weakened due to its difficulty in contacting local residents directly and the absence of a full-time coordinator. Operating the school is an effort to overcome this limitation. The school will be the place where the PSPD meets apartment residents and leads their way. Participants will learn about how to deal with various problems in the apartment and have a chance to think about how to improve life in them. The first week is about how to form up and operate the autonomous organization in the apartment community. The second week is concerned about the problems in everyday life, especially those that originated from careless construction. In the third week, the class is how to deal with the corruption of management expenses and how to improve it. The last class is to think about an alternative to improve the dry life in the apartment with examples of some currently operated programs.

Until now, around 40 people attended the class in each week. This number is much higher than the PSPD expected, which proves high interest in the apartment movement. Based on the experience of the school, the PSPD has plans to increase its participants as well as to enlarge area covered in the class. It is considering the possibility of co-hosting this kind of school with the local government or the media in the near future. It is also holding lecturing tours and preparing different contents according to the residents' position in the apartment community.

As the growth rate of population has become lower and the number of apartment has been increased, more people are concerned about the quality of life there. Hopefully, this school will be the beginning of the transition which turns the closed society into the warmhearted open community.

Details of Curriculum

Lecture 1 (June 8th): Apartment as an autonomous organization. Nam-Geun Kim (Lawyer) Hyun-Chun Shim (A Construction Company)

The first part of the lecture begins with the history of the apartment movement. Then, it explains how to establish and operate the autonomous resident organization according to the various decrees. The residents' representative committee and the women's' committee are the typical organizations. To realize the participatory democracy, it suggests publishing apartment newspapers, setting up regular meetings between representatives and the residents, and operating the residents' audit. The second part is a chance to participate in a mock committee. Based on the questions of the participant, this shows how to deal with actual conflicts such as the process of non-confidence of the apartment representative and the tension between the residents' committee and the women's committee.

Lecture 2 (June 15th): Questions on the daily life in the apartment. Hyun-Yong Lee (Lawyer) Young-dong Choi (Lawyer)

This covers any kind of trouble concerning daily lives as well as moving in and out of the apartment. Based on a person's legal rights and obligations as a resident, this suggests the procedure for dealing with problems. The second part focuses on the defects originating from careless construction. A resident has a right to require the construction company to repair and compensate for those defects. Leaking, din, poor heating, and the lack of rooms due to construction different from the plan are commonly mentioned defects. If the company rejects the requirement, the resident representative committee has a right to sue it with the aid of the Korea Fair Trade Commission or the Korea Consumer Protection Board. It also exemplifies some major precedents on this subject.

Lecture 3 (June 22nd): Transparent and efficient way of running management expenses. Young-Mo Kang Young-Gyun Kim (PSPD in Ueojungbu)

In the beginning, it runs over actual cases related with corruption in apartments. Then, it deals with the whole process concerning management expenses from their breakdown and imposition to the audit report with an actual expenses bill. The second part is mainly about good examples of transparent and efficient management of the expenses. It introduces cases in the local community to reduce expenses and to manage them transparently.

Lecture 4 (June 29th): Apartment as a community of sharing and cooperation. Yoon-Ha Lee (Architect) Myung-Nye Choi (Cooperator of Apartment)

The first part focuses on the Green Apartment. With domestic and foreign examples, it looks for ways to create the pro-environmental apartment through disposing of food, recycling garbage, constructing a mini-zoo and an ecological park. In the second part, various exercising programs are suggested, such as how to make a better local community. It looks over some alternative programs, such as the joint nursing and the local cooperation association.
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