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Internet Message Boards: The Next Lobbying Tool

Posted December. 21, 2005 03:00,   


Internet posts protesting the revised Elementary and Secondary Education Act flooded message boards on the homepages of lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Education Committee yesterday.

The revision, otherwise known as the “School After School bill”, was proposed by Cho Bae-sook (Uri Party) in June, and calls for the government or self-governing local authorities to support schools by carrying out aptitude fostering education programs and extra classes in different levels after school.

Should the measure pass, private education institutions are certain to suffer. It has been reported that private educational institutions have pressurized related lawmakers both online and offline, with the latter coming through personal conversations.

In a possible concession to the pressure, the revision was passed on to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee through the Education Committee in September, but was sent back to the Education Committee during the Legislation and Judiciary Small Committee’s deliberation process early this month.

One member of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee told reporters, “Earlier this month, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development and the Education Committee asked for late restitution, citing the measure as ‘neglecting the views of the private institution sector.”

A member of the Education Committee said, “Internet posts by people from the supplementary private education institution sector are being posted 30-100 times a day,” adding, “Because careless refuting of the posts may cause resentment, we are leaving the board alone.”

Kim Dong-cheol of the Uri Party and a member of the Construction and Transportation Committee even had to withdraw a bill due to collective, aggressive feedback from a related group.

In just 15 days, he had to annul the proposal for a revised bill of the Passenger Transport Business Act, which was intended to reduce the number of oversupplied taxies, as protests from the taxi workers’ union started to get fierce.

The Health and Welfare Committee has its own issues concerning the legislative bill of the Nursing Law, which will separate nurse-related agendas from the Medical Law, with the Korean Medical Association, the Korean Nurses Association, and the Korean Assistant Nurses Association all applying pressure on lawmakers and public opinion in order to lead the legislation process in their respective favorable ways.

A member of the Health and Welfare Committee spoke out, saying, “A particular group has been committing blackmail with regard to this particular law, boasting of its larger number of members.”

Public Service Workers Are Into Group Behavior as Well-

On the message boards of the homepages of each party’s lawmakers there are plenty of for-and-against posts regarding the investigative power adjustment issue between the police and the prosecution.

The absolute majority of posts have come from “police users,” who are in favor of the investigative power adjustment proposal. There are some posts with clearly-stated names and affiliations that ask for help in an orderly manner, but many unidentified posts openly decry the lawmakers.

The police’s tendency toward “group behavior” tendency showed its might during the handling of the revision bill concerning the Police Public Personnel Law, which passed the General Meeting of the Assembly on December 9.

When the bill, which calls for the automatic promotion of a police sergeant to a police lieutenant with eight years of service, was passed on December 8, Chu Ho-young of the Hannara Party requested the tracing of IP addresses to Commissioner of Police Huh Jun-young, who was also present at the conference, saying, “The posting of 70 messages during working hours urging the passage of the bill seems to be a product of the organization’s orders.”

Experts say that “the Internet is changing into a lobbying device for particular groups, including public service personnel. While it is fair for related interest groups to express their opinions on bills, trouble is created when one tries to influence public opinion using intimidating speech.”

Kang-Myoung Chang woogija@donga.com tesomiom@donga.com