[EDITORIALS]Civic groups: big shoes to fillCivic groups are expected to be the second most influential force in Korea’s future, following Samsung. A recent survey conducted by monthly publication NEXT shows how civic groups have risen in influence since the inauguration of this government. But there is doubt about whether the civic groups can live up to these high expectations. In a conference hosted in part by the JoongAng Ilbo Institute for Civil Society, some participants criticized civic groups, who should be helping end social strife, for creating more enmity in society.
During the dark past, civic groups were the watchdogs over power and earned the trust of the people by expanding the value of human rights and democracy. They also achieved a lot in economic justice and environmental issues and other fields. The problem is that some civic groups have lost their neutrality and recently started to make claims that are politically biased. These groups one-sidedly support the policies of the present government and indiscriminately attack any political parties or groups that criticize government policies. The hostility that these groups hold against the mainstream media long ago reached unacceptable levels. Do these civic groups, who are so biased, deserve the substantial financial support they receive from the government every year?
The more divided national opinion is and the more intense the strife, the harder civic groups should work to unite the people and offer rational alternatives for the future. This is the only way civic groups will maintain the trust that they earned from the people in the past. At the conference, Lee In-ho of Seoul National University lamented that the biggest social changes since the launching of this government is that society has become far too anti-elite and anti-intellectual, and that we have no ongoing rational dialogue in society to solve national issues.
The primary responsibility for this problem lies with the civic groups that, siding with government, use their numbers to push their own agenda anytime, anywhere. When these groups oppose any opinion that differs from theirs, they are bound to aggravate the resentment of others and bring social conflict. Is it proper for civic groups to aid such strife and conflict? Civic groups should realize that public expectations for their role are higher than ever and that they should show a more responsible attitude in helping bring social harmony.