[EDITORIALS]Civic groups need integrity

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[EDITORIALS]Civic groups need integrity

Around 500 civic groups are said to have received a total of more than 40 billion won ($34 million) of support from the government last year. They said they used the sum to hold seminars, forums, educational programs and campaigns for citizens.
The reason that civic groups exist is to monitor and check the government and provide policy alternatives. If they are to be faithful to their given roles, they should maintain a certain distance from the government.
We wonder how they can properly check and criticize the government when they receive a large amount of government support.
Civic groups argue that they spent the sum legitimately. Yes, the sum may have been used for vital businesses of citizens and for efforts to build a healthy civil society. But the end won’t justify the means.
It is very suspicious to us to see that government support is concentrated on civic groups that criticized newspapers not favorable toward the administration and civic groups that engaged in a rejection movement against particular politicians.
The civic groups now have to answer whether they had a secret deal with the current administration to express unified opinions. Citizens Coalition for Economic Justice, a representative civic group of the nation, fearing that they might be influenced by the government, has refused to receive government support since 2001.
What is most important for civic groups is integrity. And civic groups themselves are responsible for maintaining their integrity. It is wrong for the administration to provide citizens’ taxes to civic groups to make them side with it.
The moment civic groups are lured by the government’s money, they will lose their integrity. If there are civic groups that cannot exist without the carrots of the government, then they may well break up by themselves.
The current Roh Moo-hyun administration is the one most eager to make civic groups side with it. Mr. Roh has emphasized a companion relationship with civic groups since he was elected and civic group members joined the administration or exercise influence in the administration’s personnel affairs.
If the administration does not want to be labeled as a failed administration, and if the civic groups do not want to be rejected by the public, the suspicious monetary transactions between the two parties should be stopped now.
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