An intelligent proposalThe citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, Young Korea Academy, Christian Ethics Movement of Korea and Green Future started a series of discussions on the social responsibility of civic groups yesterday. It is nice to see them reflecting on their identities and pondering the direction where they should go. Civic groups will have no place to stand if they ignore the criticism they face as their political and social influence grows.
Still, it is regretable that controversial issues have remained unchanged for the past several years. The issues ― civic group leaders becoming government officials, government subsidies for civic groups, alliances between civic groups and political parties and an absence of ordinary people in civic movements ― have been raised since the beginning of the Kim Dae-jung administration. Despite long-standing awareness, in many cases, the situation has gotten worse instead of better.
Park Byeong-ok, secretary general of the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, has confessed that civic groups seem to have become a human resource pool for the current administration.
Civic groups might feel they are being unfairly targeted at some level. It is difficult to stop a person who has worked as a civic group official from being appointed as a government official.
The government subsidies to civic groups is also a global trend, as demonstrated by the European Union, which recommends its member states designate more than 1 percent of their budgets to support non-governmental organizations.
But to keep defending themselves with these excuses is like agonizing over lost suitcases when the boat is sinking. If they want to save the boat, they have to boldly throw the suitcases away. Government subsidies cannot do anything but stop civic groups from criticizing the government.
The political inclination of civic groups is only evidence of their failure to find an adequate model for a civic movement in a changed environment. In this sense, Park’s proposals ― restricting civic leaders’ participation in governmental committees, supporting civic groups through tax exemptions and safeguarding civic leadership positions from falling into the hands of amateurs who have conviction but no experience ― are worth paying attention to.
The controversies need to be put to rest through these kinds of reforms. Although it might seem trivial, if an issue continues to undermine civic groups’ credibility, they will be seriously harmed.