Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NGOs In Korea

Korea has more than 10,000 NGOs (non-governmental organizations ) influencing our society. The director of the Seoul Caritas Volunteer Center writes about NGOs in the opinion column of the Catholic Times.

A member of the Korean Non-Profit Institute and busy with her own work at the Seoul Caritas Volunteer Center, the writer was intent on resigning from the Institute but the chairperson, during the last meeting, upset at the poor attendance of the trustees and the non-payment of dues, reduced the number of the trustees and selected her as one of the new trustees. She decided to accept and then reflected on why she has continued as a member of the Institute for the last ten years.

In her column, she mentions that she wrote her doctoral dissertation on the  Korean NGOs and their importance in society. What do the NGOs actually do in society? she asked herself. Several answers came to mind: there is nothing that they are not able to do; they search for what the body politic is not doing; they advocate for what the body politic doesn't want to do; they reform what the body politic is doing wrong, and they lend support to the body politic when it doesn't have the ability to do what needs to be done. In short, the non-profits intend to uncover the problems that accumulate in society and to alert our citizens to the problems and help solve them.

With the advance of democracy in the 20th century, the limitation of market capabilities, the spread of pluralism and the change of the government's role in society, many areas of concern  have  come to the attention of the  non-profit groups. In the West, the role of the non-profits has done much to advance society.  England has a history of charitable institutions. France  is known for its cooperatives. In South-East Asia, Thailand and the Philippines are far ahead of Japan and Korea in their development of non-profits. Korea has only recently realized their potential in humanizing our society.  In Korea, different names are used to identify the non-profits. Besides the NGO, there is the NPO (non-profit organization) and the NVO (private voluntary organization)--perhaps a sign, there is a difficulty in coming to an understanding  of the work.

Authorities in the field say non-profits are helping to make a better society; that without them, we would have a less humane society. They also believe there should be more effort made to improve the capabilities of these non-profits.However, we should not rely on a few non-profits to supply the necessary know-how and do what we have always done. A broader outreach of many non-profits is needed, each developing its own special area of concern within the constraints of available funding. Also needed is for more of society to acknowledge the importance of these non-profit groups, and to help them continue to do their much-needed  work by contributing financial aid. 

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