[EDITORIALS]Civic Groups Need to Reflect

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[EDITORIALS]Civic Groups Need to Reflect

Two leading civic activists - Park Won-soon, secretary general of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, and Lee Seog-yeon, secretary general of the Citizen's Coalition for Economic Justice - had a heated debate Monday over civic groups' participation in politics. During an open session that followed, civic-group leaders were divided into two groups - pro and con. Some observers went as far as to say that Korea's civic activism is in crisis.

It is true that some civic groups have been deeply involved in some of the nation's most divisive issues, raising serious questions about who mandates the groups.

The groups launched a controversial rejection campaign against candidates the groups deemed as corrupt and incompetent during last year's parliamentary elections and pressed for press reforms this year. Others even call them "the fifth government," expressing concern that they have become politically too powerful.

We view Mr. Lee's comment, "Civic movements cannot go beyond the boundaries of legal procedures and the rule of law," as a candid suggestion that activists go back to square one and review their activities to address such concerns.

His criticism about leading civic activists taking key government positions or entering into politics should also be understood as a call for discussions among civic groups about the continuing participation by their leaders in politics without even proper judgment whether their participation was an advantage or a disadvantage.

With strict obedience to the law, the crusade for reforms may produce limited results. Blaming, without conclusive evidence, all leading activists for taking government positions in return for their coalition with a certain political faction would not be fair. Still, we believe that leaders of civic groups should reflect upon their own problems from the perspective of seeing the forest rather than the trees.

After all those concerns, however, we should not downplay the roles of civic groups and their movement. They should take the credit for instilling a sense of citizenship in Koreans, most of whom are used to not taking part in matters that do not involve their immediate families.

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