2012 Grassroots Movement Activists Conference

2012 Grassroots Movement Activists Conference - Directions of Grassroots Movement took place in Seoul Women’s Plaza from September 11 to 12. The event was organized to provide opportunities in which about 100 activists representing various fields in the nation could share their experiences and explore a common vision of grassroots movement for the progress of Korean society.

The conference consisted of three-part dialogue programs focusing on 4 topics: Beyond Boundaries of Movement, Creating Sustainable Movement, and Understanding Trends in Institutionalization of Movements, and Recovering Self-Esteem of Grassroots Movement. The first part, which opened the conference on the afternoon of the first day, was intended for the participants to further their understanding of grassroots movement activities and converse with senior activists and peers. In a talk-show format, Yi Ho, executive director of Center for Grassroots Autonomy, spoke about methods of sustainable grassroots movement and Yu Chang-bok, president of Corporation Maeul, led the dialogue on countermeasures to the institutionalization of grassroots movement and on the magnetic qualities of a village community. 

Subsequently, the participants, divided into groups, shared their experiences in organizing local residents as agents of movement and their thoughts on the issues of individual and organization, and discussed ways to resolve those issues. As the participants moved from table to table, they were able to interact with more people and hear about more diverse ideas.

In the first day’s second program that was held in the evening, the participants, who came from all over the country, laid out their experiences and visions as an activist. After the group discussions on the direction of grassroots movement, they were able to earn empathy and elicit admiration by presenting the results of the discussion and the related cases in the ignite show manner. Although widely known via the Internet and the media, cases such as Cheolwon’s Border Peace School, DMZ Internet Broadcasting Station, and Cheongju’s Building a Healthy Village were vividly depicted by activists in the field, and their presentations offered an experience on a different level. 

The next morning saw a human book library program, the third part of the conference, in which the five guests active in grassroots movement were heard to relate their on-site experiences. The various topics that excited a lot of the participants included life as an activist in search of new values of life and peace movement, approaches to local movement, education policies fully shifting their focus ‘to cooperation from competition, to support from discrimination, and to human beings from capital’, grassroots education movement, and the ABC’s of grassroots movement.

Amid the numerous cases presented, the one involving the participation of apartment residents stood out. Having given much thought to a structure through which to channel differences in the residents’ desires, the president of Paju World Meridian Apartment Resident Representatives’ Meeting, recommended resolving the issue by establishing a ‘resident conference.’ The Meridian residents, it was reported, came to appreciate the importance of caring representatives and the power of residents’ autonomy and take pride in their selves as they witnessed their own proposals transforming into concrete results.

The September conference is significant as a national-level meeting for grassroots movement activists’ sharing and communicating. The past events on grassroots movement thus far took the form of local-level conference or meeting by particular area. We hope this conference has provided yet another opportunity for grassroots activists to enhance their capability and further strengthen the foundation of Korea’s democracy in the process of identifying a variety of concerns about their activism and sharing their successes and failures.