CCEJ's real strength, I think, lies in its spirit. Although it stresses the importance of structural reform, it fundamentally pursues reform of people's consciousness.

Acceptance speech – Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ)

It is with profound humility and deep gratitude that I stand before you to accept this award on behalf of the thousands of members who comprise the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice.

First of all, I would like to express my deepest appreciation of the awarding of the esteemed Right Livelihood Award to the Citizens’ Coalition of Economic Justice (CCEJ) in Korea. Considering that the winning of the award is an indication of how the international society views CCEJ’s 14 years’ activities, I cannot but be overwhelmed with emotion.

CCEJ is known to have spearheaded the civic movement in Korea, and is still regarded as one of the most influential civic organizations in the country. We are proud to say that CCEJ has made numerous achievements during the last 14 years, such as helping to eradicate real estate speculation, realizing political reform, establishing the “real-name bank transaction system, maintaining fair elections, promoting a corruption-free society and mending ties between South and North Korea.

But over and beyond these visible results, I think that the real and utmost achievement of CCEJ is that it ushered in a new era of civic movement in Korea. In 1989, when CCEJ was formed, Korea was going through a very difficult time. The country had defeated the dictatorial government through a popular uprising in 1987, and democracy had just started to unfold in Korea. But although the nation’s dissident movement at the time should have adapted to these democratic changes in society, it continued to maintain its radical views as before. As a result, the majority of the middle class, which had supported the dissident movement’s fight for democracy in the past, began to turn their backs on these forces and a conservative wave swept through Korea.

Against this backdrop, CCEJ was formed. We felt that the Korean society could not afford to become conservative with so many crucial reforms left unaccomplished. But when a radical movement flourishes, it is only natural that the voices of conservatives, rather than those of reformists, should gather strength in society as a backlash. In this aspect, we thought that if we initiate a kind of movement based on the middle class, we could bring about reform for the entire society.

This is why CCEJ chose to initiate a new kind of movement, one that is legal rather than illegal; one that pursues rational policy alternatives rather than ideological campaigns; one that is not based upon class struggles, but attempts to speak out unbiased voices in society.

CCEJ refused to engage in ideological struggles and instead grappled with the issues which influence our daily lives, such as skyrocketing land prices that widen the gap between the rich and the poor. When CCEJ first started, it received criticisms from both the status-quos and the dissident movements. But later, it was able to become the mainstream of Korea’s social movement. This is the result of CCEJ’s initiative to seek rational answers rather than maintain ideological and militant campaigns. Thanks to the efforts of CCEJ and others, Korea’s civic movement has emerged to become one of the most powerful forces in Korea today.

CCEJ’s real strength, I think, lies in its spirit. Although it stresses the importance of structural reform, it fundamentally pursues reform of people’s consciousness. We are not afraid of saying what we think is right, even if we have to endure criticisms from others and we are also ready to openly acknowledge our mistakes when they occur.

These principles, in turn, enhanced CCEJ’s credibility in the long run.

We believe CCEJ is a movement which “fights evil with good.” The CCEJ movement is not based on the anger of the have-nots toward the haves. It attempts to motivate the good will in every one’s mind and organize it into power to bring about change in society. This kind of movement may look weak, but it is actually one of the strongest of them all, as it has the power to move a person’s heart.

CCEJ believes that strengthening individuals’ good will is the only way to change our society. Armed with the power of good will, we are aiming at overcoming the serious confrontation between progressive and conservative forces which exist in the present Korean society. Then it will become possible to tackle many tasks that lie in front of us, such as promoting economic development, defusing North Korea’s nuclear program and working toward reconciliation between the South and North. As a country that escaped from poverty just twenty to thirty years ago, we also hope we can play an active role in helping the 2 billion people around the globe who continue to suffer from poverty and hunger in the age of globalization.

A foreign journalist once said that realizing democracy in Korea is as difficult as making a rose blossom out of rubbish.

But through the key contribution of the civic movement, that rose is now in full bloom.

We now wish to share our experiences with other developing countries so that they too, can enjoy the fruits of democracy. We hope they will learn the important role of civic movements in realizing democracy and economic development after decades of military dictatorship.

We believe our award money of the Right Livelihood Award will contribute to making that hope a reality.

Thank you.

Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ)
26-9, Dongsung 3-gil
Seoul 110-809