&#91EDITORIALS&#93The role of civic groups

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[EDITORIALS]The role of civic groups

"We do not intend to forge any relationship with the new government other than offering critical cooperation and playing a monitoring role that we will always maintain." The statement that the Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice, a major civic group, issued recently charts a desirable course of action for civic groups and the government. Other civic groups should also strive to play proper roles.

"Friendly" relations between President-elect Roh Moo-hyun and civic groups have been detected here and there. A sizable number of civic group leaders were invited to participate in the transition committee and the committee embraced the reform policies that these leaders advocated. Mr. Roh himself emphasized a partnership with civic groups saying, "Grassroots activities lead our society" and "I will help whenever the need arises."

The Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice, however, is staking a future on a painful self-criticism of its failure during the Kim Dae-jung administration. Civic groups' uncritical support for government campaigns, such as "the second nation-founding" and "national reconciliation," damaged their independence and neutrality during the Kim era. The coalition believes its failure to properly monitor the government during those campaigns helped exacerbate corruption and favoritism.

The statement this time bears resemblance to another recent statement by the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which said, "The period of cordial relations with President-elect Roh is over." It is imperative that civic groups stay independent from political power and partisan wrangling. They should instead monitor, criticize and offer alternative ideas to the government. Grassroots advocates must realize that unconditional support for the policies of the Roh Moo-hyun administration will not help the new government at all and may, in fact, lead it to failure.
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