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Paralyzed checks and balances

Nov 07,2019
The People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD) that has long been Korea’s iconic NGO is facing its biggest challenge since its establishment in 1994. The liberal civic group confronts a brewing internal conflict over its role as a government cheerleader. Cho Hye-kyung, a member on the Center for Economic and Financial Justice, wrote in a community site that the PSPD has left a “lasting stain” in its 25-year history following the debacle over former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. The center head and accountant Kim Kyung-yul also fell out with the PSPD leadership that stood behind Cho who used to be its member. Before Cho’s ouster, Kim demanded Cho to resign from public office, raising questions over the private fund his family invested in.

They were critical of the NGO’s abandonment of its role as a watchdog over powers with partiality to a government employee who used to be one of its own.

Internal disgruntlement has been simmering from excessive recruitment of the NGO figures for government posts by the Moon Jae-in administration. All the presidential policy chiefs — Jang Ha-sung, Kim Soo-hyun and Kim Sang-jo — have served in the PSPD. Cho Kuk, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul and Tak Hyun-min, chief of the presidential protocol office, also came from the PSPD. When including Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the PSPD has been a hotbed for the human resources for the ruling power.

The partiality of the PSPD has upset the checks- and-balances mechanism in democracy. An NGO that used to play a pivotal role as a ruling power watchdog now keeps mum on state affairs. An ex-PSPD member wrote that the NGO tried to keep its distance from political power in order not to lose balance despite internal differences in the past. But it has lost balance under the Moon administration.
PSPD must return to its original civic role as mandated in its foundation declaration. The NGO must serve to “safeguard civilian rights” by monitoring and reporting power abuses.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 6, Page 30