ad info

 web features
 magazine archive
 customer service
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia

Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

AsiaweekTimeAsia NowAsiaweek story

FEBRUARY 11, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 5

Pains from the Past
A chief torturer goes on trial

Lee Kun An represents an unwelcome reminder of South Korea's unsavory past. His claim to fame comes from his role as chief torturer in Chun Doo Hwan's military regime of the 1980s. A senior police official in charge of an anti-espionage unit, Lee oversaw the torture of those accused of engaging in pro-democracy activities or being pro-North sympathizers. In those days, the prosecutor, the police and the anti-communist division of Korea's intelligence agency worked together to extract "confessions" from those accused of "working against the state." Lee was the man who carried out the job - and is now on trial for the crimes.

Cover: Change Is in the Air
The Internet education of Raymond Kwok

South Korea: Revolt of the Citizens
A blacklisting campaign shocks lawmakers
The Power of the NGOs
Civic groups are the new political force
Pains from the Past
A chief torturer goes on trial

Pakistan: Of Rhetoric and Reality
Why Pakistan is not declared a terrorist state

India: 'Pakistan Unpredictable'
But India can hold its ground, says Fernandes

Indonesia: Washington on Wahid
America's top man on East Asia applauds Indonesia's president

Thailand: The Enemy on the Border
More than anyone else, it's Myanmar United Wa State Army that threatens Thailand's security

Welcome to South Korea's new political landscape, where NGOs involve themselves in not only social but political issues - and have the clout to make a difference. If there is one thing the country is not short of, it is civic groups. Currently, there are nearly 70,000 such organizations that are registered with various local administrative bodies. The largest and most active of these groups number about 500, according to a spokesman for the Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice.

The CCEJ itself is one of them. Led by a progressive-minded lawyer named Lee Suk Hyun, it has nationwide operations and was responsible for unveiling the first list of 164 politicians that kicked off the blacklisting campaign. There is also the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, whose mission is to bring about "fundamental changes" in the economic and political spheres. The PSPD is known for fighting against the chaebol for minority shareholders' rights. Other notable civic groups include the Coalition for Political Reform and the Coalition for Press Reform.

Such organizations boast not only the numbers but a distinguished history. They can claim a lineage that goes back to the underground movements of the 1980s, which fought against the military regime of strongman Chun Doo Hwan. In many cases, the civic groups have the same personnel as their predecessors. Among those involved in the struggle against Chun were radical students who fought pitched street battles against riot police. Many of them went on to call for reunification with North Korea and educate workers on their right to form unions and seek collective bargaining. Through their activities, the students helped nurture a progressive element in Korean society.

Fast forward to 2000. The students are now established members of society. They belong to a demographic stratum dubbed the "386" generation - in their 30s, went to university in the '80s, born in the '60s. In an analogous situation to the Baby Boomers of America, this generation has lately been under much scrutiny and attention, its members hailed as representing the future of South Korea.

And so they may. A majority of activists involved with civic groups belong to the 386 batch. Tempered by their fight against military rule (and often by a stint in jail as well), many now pursue respectable careers as lawyers or doctors. But they still hold on to their cause - for fairness, equality, democracy and unification - and make up the backbone of new liberal thinking.

Given the idealism of their (recent) youth, it is perhaps no surprise that the 386 people are less tolerant of corruption, inequity and injustice. The same day Article 87 is being discussed, civic-group members watch as 62 lawmakers sign a pledge to strictly follow election laws. "What you have seen today is just the beginning of a long campaign," says political activist Kim Min Sik. The 386 generation has come of age, and South Korea may never be the same again.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home


Quick Scroll: More stories and related stories
Asiaweek Newsmap: Get the week's leading news stories, by region, from Newsmap


U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

Thai party announces first coalition partner


COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state


COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness

Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN

Back to the top   © 2000 Asiaweek. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.