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[Opinion] Competition and Cooperation

Posted December. 12, 2004 23:04,   


The Korean Sociological Association’s (KSA) symposium for the second term took place last weekend. Held under the theme, “Social Changes and Social Unity in Korea,” this was a mammoth symposium in which around 140 theses were introduced. From retired senior sociologists to graduate students, a wide range of people participated, and the participants showed an even gender ratio.

Koreans seem to be good in competition but poor in cooperation. Having around 1,000 members, the KSA is one of the representative institutes in the sociological society. Many branches sprung up in this institute after several years of competitive differentiations. As a result, the KSA itself went in danger of collapsing. Symposiums were not able to finish even a two-day schedule because of a low participation rate, and the journal almost had to decrease publication because there were no contributions of theses. This was the result of creating new systems while turning away from existing ones. A distinct example of good competition and poor cooperation had appeared even in the sociological society.

The KSA was reborn this year as the result of an effort to promote competition within the group. The branch groups were induced to return to the institute, and a panel was assigned to each branch. Through this panel organization was activated. There was an overflow of theses and, at times, 12 panels had to be activated at once because there were so many of them. The same thing occurred at the symposium for the first term held early in the summer. As a result there is a flow of theses submitted for contribution to the journal. This can be regarded as a successful case of unification through competition.

Conflicts in the Korean society have reached a serious level. Social and national unity was mentioned as our big assignment. Politics fail to play a mediating role, and there are no systems to mediate conflicts. Politicians only know competition and do not know how to cooperate. This is evident when seeing both the ruling and the opposition parties competing to make several groups within their parties. They are only satisfied when they make new groups instead of contemplating on how to do a better job through existing parties and the Assembly. As a result there are no party platforms, and in times of conflicts there are no central forces or rules for anyone to solve the problem within the party. Since cooperation and unity is failing to take place, even in Yeoido, we cannot possibly hope for national unity.

Lee Soo-hoon, Guest editorial writer, Professor of International Politics and Economy at Kyungnam University, leesh@kyungnam.ac.kr