The Citizens' Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ) was formed in response to the extremely unjust structure of Korean economic life today. Rapid economic development over the past 30 some years has brought wealth to the giant "chaebol" business groups singled out by the government for preferential treatment, and has raised the per capita GNP to more than $10,000. In this process, however, equitable distribution has been forgotten, the environment gravely damaged, and democratic development postponed. The priority on industrialization and urbanization has alienated large groups and areas and created wide structural gaps, even risking collapse of the economic system.
Above all, the "chaebol" monopoly system has brought undeserved suffering to many citizens: small-business owners, workers, farmers, fishing people and all the others who were the main producers of the "economic miracle." Regardless of the impressive GNP, these ordinary citizens see their economic capacity shrinking day by day.
Before CCEJ came into being, there was no organization to point out the structural problems in the Korean economy and to engage citizens in a movement for economic reform. There was, however, a base of critical consciousness developed through the people's resistance to three decades of military dictatorship, and it was this awareness, brought to a focus in the nationwide demonstrations of June 1987, that turned the nation to civilian political rule.
Forming the Organization
CCEJ was founded in 1989 by 500 some persons representing various walks of life: economics professors and other specialists, lawyers, housewives, students, young adults and business people. Their slogan, "Let's achieve economic justice through citizens' power," reflected their belief that the deep-rooted economic injustices could not be cured by government alone, but ultimately must be solved by the organized power of citizens. They believed that the fruits of economic development should be shared by all the common people, not just the small group of "haves;" and they proposed a new methodology of gradual but thorough reform of the economic system. They founded CCEJ as a movement that would 1) be led by the ordinary citizens, 2) use legal and nonviolent methods, 3) seek workable alternatives, 4) speak for the interests of all people, regardless of economic standing, and 5) work to overcome greed and egoism in order to build a sharing society.
While still young, the CCEJ movement has achieved several important successes; most notably the establishment of the "real name system" for all financial transactions and for the registration of property; and its active program of forums, seminars and public discussions has elevated public awareness about economic issues.
Since 1989, CCEJ's movement has grown to include also the areas of environmental protection, democratic development and national reunification. According to the issue at hand, it has lobbied government officials for policy changes, pressed for amendment of related laws, issued statements, demonstrated and held press conferences.
Many of its activities have been carried out in cooperation with other citizens' organizations. For example, in 1993-4, CCEJ helped to form the "People's Coalition to Protect Korean Agriculture," a network of 190 organizations which pressured the government to impose conditions on the agricultural market opening to protect Korean farmers and the Korean food system from the negative effects of the Uruguay Round.
Another important area of networking has been the Fair Election Campaign, which mobilizes dozens of civic groups at each election time to promote voter awareness about the candidates' policies and to press the candidates themselves to present good social and economic reform platforms.
Now, CCEJ has expanded its membership to 35 thousand and still enjoys its status as a leading non-governmental organization in Korea. Today CCEJ focuses on three principles: people’s integration, realization of citizens’ participatory democracy, and a political and economic system reform movement for the development of Korean society. In addition, on the structural level, we plan to expand the on-line civil movement, educate citizens and strengthen coalition with international NGOs.