Shady environmentalism

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Shady environmentalism

The nation’s largest environmental activist group, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, is rotten to the core.

During the investigation on the former president of the organization, Choi Yeol, another executive was recently arrested on charges of embezzling 300 million won. This leader spent the money buying a luxury sports car and paying off his girlfriend’s debts. And to steal the money, he conspired with another official at the organization. We are struck dumb with amazement.

Driven into a corner, the group yesterday ended up issuing a public apology. However, a fundamental, detailed plan for reform was not included in the public statement. Establishing a special committee was the only method they proposed to try and improve the current situation, although several group leaders had an emergency meeting for the second consecutive day last week. They seem to have focused on just keeping their vested interests and offices although they face a huge crisis and a total loss of public trust.

The organization can no longer be called a civic group. As it steadily grew bloated with more and more officials, it became bureaucratized and a power structure was established.

It claimed that it has struggled under a shortage of support from the Korean government and other companies, but at the same time they didn’t catch any of the embezzlement going on inside the organization. The financial audit system was utterly careless, and the organization as a whole suffers from moral paralysis. Seemingly taking the lead in criticizing companies that contaminate the environment, the group encouraged people to be part of an environment protection campaign. Then it stole the donations.

The association must clear its name. In order for that to happen, the whole thing must be restructured. Above all, it should be led by transparent environmentalists who are filled with a sense of responsibility.

It should also be reborn as a smaller, more specialized institution. Its operations must be conducted in the open - the accounts in particular. They should no longer rely on funds from the government and other companies. More dependence on such donations makes the organization more susceptible to corruption. Instead, it should run on membership fees. If these steps cannot be made, the Korea Federation for Environmental Movement would be better off just shutting down.

One thing is certain: This is the group’s last chance to recreate its image and emerge as an organization the public can trust.

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