On June 29, the KDF Institute for Korean Democracy hosted a symposium commemorating the 24th anniversary of the June Democratic Uprising at the Korea Press Foundation. The theme of the symposium was The Democracy and Governance of Risk Society. The symposium was arranged with the aim of providing a diagnosis of the reality where science and technology, growth, and development rationality have produced problems that threaten everyday life and to consider measures to overcome this reality.
Professor Kim Hwan-seok of Kookmin University (UNESCO World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology), serving as the facilitator of Part 1 - Science, Technology and Risk Society, opened the discussion by stating, “Although our society’s democracy is unstable and incomplete, the depth of contemplation about democracy seems to be deepening. Science, technology and ecological environment which were not embraced as topics of democracy in the past are now being included. Awareness must reach out not only to the democracy of humans but also to the democracy of nature and animals.” Professor Kim emphasized that if the issue of democracy in the past concerned the problem of how humans can live properly with other humans, now it needs to be concerned with how humans can live properly with all of nature.
Professor Roh Jin-cheol of Kyungpook National University (Daegu Civic Organization Alliance representative) who gave the first presentation of Part 1 titled “Nuclear Power Plant Disaster and Political Decision Making in Risk Society” talked about the risk and danger of our society as revealed by the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan. In his discussion, Professor Roh used the conceptual differentiation of “danger” and “risk” proposed by Luhmann. Under the differentiation, danger refers to hazards that one suffers without any preparation, whereas, risk refers to hazards that one prepares for through various risk calculations and rational prevention measures. Professor Roh emphasized that, unlike danger, risk is based on the premise of an actor’s decision and thus a nuclear power plant accident is not a danger but a risk. That is, the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident should be accepted not as a danger coming from the external environment outside the direct physical control of humans but as a risk arising from the decision made by the government or the nuclear power plant operator or expert groups. Professor Roh showed through examples of various nations’ nuclear power policies that all decisions are made according to political motivations and that political and social factors play a stronger role in them. Scientific judgment is bound within the scope of policy advising and the decisions are ultimately made on a political basis.
In his presentation “The Risk of Nuclear Power Generation and Citizen-Led Drive for Alternative Energy,” Professor Lee Pilyeol expressed concerns about the current destruction of nature changing from the destruction of nature’s macro-world to the destruction of micro-world. He emphasized that as our use of nature goes from the macro-world to the micro-world, the time needed and the possibility for nature’s recovery become inversely proportional, the costs for humans become greater, and the possibility of recovery is weakened. The use of nuclear power, as it involves destroying atoms that make up the most fundamental basis of nature, inevitably destabilizes nature itself. Nuclear power cannot be seen with the eyes and can be known only through evaluation and analysis of measurements taken by special equipment. And since we cannot sense it at all, we are unable to assess the cost of nuclear power that we must bear. Professor Lee asserted that the task for us at the moment is switching to a safer, renewable energy source and that it is most appropriate to have a citizen-led drive for switching to alternative energy. As an example of this, he introduced the Solar Complex, an example in Germany of citizen-led green village development.
Part 2 - “Ecological Environment and Sustainable Society” was facilitated by Professor Jeong Geun-sik of Seoul National University (Director, KDF Institute for Korean Democracy).
In the presentation “The Philosophy and Institutional Mechanism of Life and Peace,” Professor Park Sang-pil of Sungkonghoe University (Director, Civic Movement Information Center) asserted that without civil society it is difficult to establish life and peace in our present civilization and thus demanded an introspective reorganization of civil society as the agent for promoting life and peace.
In the presentation “Green Construction-Driven Developmentism and the Crisis of Regional Environmental Policy,” Professor Cho Myeong-rae of Dankook University (President, The Korean Association of NGO Studies) labeled the current environmental policy as “green construction-driven developmentism” that has the government taking on a very strong green-orientation on the surface but applying a very typical construction-driven method in execution that is, green on the outside, strictly construction-driven developmentism on the inside. Professor Cho pointed out that the contraction of environmental policy signifies the withering of regional democracy in which the local residents discuss, debate, and participate in policy-making. He also emphasized that the recovery of regional environmental administration should serve as the first step in resolving environmental issues within regional areas and that the regional autonomous government system itself must be completely changed by necessity to create green value through the approach of taking on the global ecological problems at the regional level.
Gu Dowan, the Director of Environment and Society Research Center, gave a presentation titled “Korean Environmental Movement and Ecological Democracy: An Examination Based on Case Studies.” Director Gu examined “the strengths and weaknesses of democracy in solving environmental issues and how democracy should be improved to solve such problems.” He explained the issues of ecological democracy by citing the Dong-gang dam, Saeman-geum, and Hantan-gang dam as specific examples. For democracy to have a positive impact on solving environmental problems the deliberative democratic method must be actively introduced in the policy making process and be systemically incorporated. A system is needed to guarantee in the policy development the participation and debate by advocates for the future generation and the ecosystem or endangered species. He argued that, without the power of a system that enables deliberative democracy, such ecological democracy may retreat at any time.
In the subsequent discussions it was pointed out that the development myth of the modern industrial society has been shattered, continuous and balanced development has become unattainable and the hope of a bountiful future has been crumbled, and the present era is a period of great change where nothing is possible without the efforts of individuals to achieve self-change. Additional points were made on the need to make new changes and delegation of roles with respect to democracy.