Korea – National Council of YMCAs
Date of foundation of the YMCA: 1903
Membership Status: Full
Full member of the World Alliance of YMCAs since: 1905
The purpose of the YMCA is for young men, following the way of Christ, to learn together, discipline each other, develop a sense of historical responsibility, work for the em-bodiment of love and justice, contribute to the improvement of the people’s welfare and to the creation of a new culture, and thereby, help es-tablish the kingdom of God on this earth. (Adopted by the Biennial Assembly of the National Council of YMCAs of Korea on 1 April 1976)
Major Programmes of Korea YMCAs to implement the mandate of the last General Assembly:
Civil Movement for Participation and Self-governance of the Civil Society
Ever since the YMCA declared to launch this movement in 1991, Korea YMCA has been leading its’21st Century Civil Movement to Establish Sustainable Local Communities’. The goal of this movement was to structure Korean society through changes in the societies in the wake of the trends toward localisation and decentralisation. Moreover, it has also made its efforts to secure safe environment, safe living and safe local communities through a ‘Civil Movement to Build Safe Local Communities’in 1996. The following year, it launched a ‘Civil Movement t0 Improve the Quality of Civil Life’ which then led to two civic programmes called ‘Creating Future Image of Locality’ and ‘Creating Index of Civil Participation in various social spheres’. In 1998, a ‘Movement to Build Compassionate Local Communities in Love and Sharing’ was also undertaken.
Movement for Political Reform
As clean and fair election culture is the basis for the democratic development of a society, Korea YMCA launched a movement to nurture a clean and fair election culture.
Still confronting a reality of money politics, regional con-flicts and cronyism, Korea YMCA has gone through the following activities, so that the 1997 Presidential Elec-tion could be conducted through a clean and fair com-petition based on policy differences. Specifically, Ko-rea YMCA led the Citizen’s Coalition for Fair Elections. Furthermore, it conducted symposiums on various election-related issues in order to reform election laws and laws related to political fund raising and political party. It also launched a campaign for an election based on policy competition. It also took initiatives in activities to promote a clean election and civil monitoring campaign which contributed to cultivating a clean and fair election culture in Korea.
Lastly, it implemented a watchdog programme on lo-cal Council’s activities as a way of strengthening civil society’s checking and bal-ancing role in local politics, and also launched ‘People’s Recall Movement’ initiated by Seoul YMCA.
As the whole world finds itself accustomed to the present patterns of mass-production and mass-consumption, they have become the best terms to describe the modern industrial society. If the present production patterns are maintained, environmental crisis on a global level will be almost unavoidable. Korea YMCA has been trying hard to transform ‘growth-efficiency-oriented thinking’ into ‘eco-friendly way of thinking’, put it differently, into ‘coexistence of both man and nature’. Korea YMCA has initiated a ‘Civil Movement Toward Energy Saving’ nationwide and it has also made its efforts to focus on ‘education on environment’ and spread out an ‘environmentally friendly lifestyle through environmental leadership training programmes’ and ‘Green Youth Camp’. More than anything, it took active part in the Network of Environmental NGOs as well, to work together in addressing environ-mental problems at the national level.
Consumers’ Rights Movement
Around 40 Citizen’s Mediation Centers in the different local YMCAs have been active in protecting consumers and enhancing their rights as we live in an age where consumers are a very powerful group if organised. The activities of the Citizen’s Mediation Centers are as diverse as follows:
– Running ‘Citizens Mediation Center’;
– Monitoring periodically prices of commodities;
– Awareness raising on consumer’s rights and responsibilities;
– Training monitors (mainly volunteers);
– Conducting surveys on consumers’ awareness and information level
– Testing the quality of commodities, etc.
Movement to Overcome the Economic Crisis
After IMF bailout programme has started in Korea, the extent and effect of unemployment appears to be far greater than expected. The unemployed population has suddenly risen up to 2 million as of March 1998 and the number of the homeless has reached around 6000, and Seoul only was estimated to have around 3000 of them. As it was the very first time for Korean society to experience such a serious mass unemployment, it could not provide any public and social welfare system and it even lacks social security net. Thus Korea was unable to absorb and orchestrate the impact of unemployment. Many express concern over the potential social dilemma, disintegration and crisis of family life, and the ever widening gap between the rich and poor. In response to this critical situation, Korea YMCA has set forth a national movement on’Sharing Food for Love’since May 1998. As a follow-up of this was another movement called ‘Sharing a plate of Noodle for Love’ which intended to help starving teenagers.
Moreover, YMCA’s pro-gramme on ‘Supporting the Unemployed’ contains the following elements:
a. Providing employment counseling, law counseling, psychological counseling, tests on aptitude and human nature, and family counsel-ing
b. Providing information on jobs and employment oppor-tunity;
c. Opening telephone line for complaining and counseling unfair dismissal;
d. Providing education on law, psychology, and job for the jobless;
e. Opening camp, counselling, and providing appropriate information on the subject of ‘back-to-earth’;
f. Opening a place (shelter) for the unemployed to take a rest;
g. Educating professional counsellors to support the unemployed.
Movement to Reform Citizens’ Day-to-day Lives
Korean society has under-gone social problems such as rapid industrialization, urbanization resulting in im-balance of different regions, disappearance of sense of community, severe environ-mental degradation, the unor-ganized traffic culture, etc. Thus Korea YMCA finds that improving the ‘quality of life’ can be achieved by initiating movements to reform socalled private sphere. In 1997, a campaign to make laws to ensure children’s safety and to ‘improve the traditional funeral culture’ and’wedding culture’ was put into practice.
Movement Towards a Peaceful Reunification
Ever since the declaration of this movement in 1990, Korea YMCA has been active in contributing to reconciliation and peace between the South and North. In addition, it also has implemented a campaign for unity overcoming division between the South and North Korea. Particularly, The YMCA launched a ‘Fund-Raising Campaign to Help North Koreans who have been suffering from hunger and famine’ by appealing to South Koreans’ fellow-feeling towards the hunger-stricken North Korean brethren. The YMCA has played a key role in closely connecting with various organizations to raise up to 1 billion won. The significance of this humanitarian relief effort lies in the fact that it helped to move one step nearer toward its goal of reconciliation.
Youth Programmes and Efforts towards Educational Reform
As generally known, modern society while abundant in goods and materials, experiences ‘mental and spiritual impoverisation’, and many youth have no choice but to go through psychological instability and disorder which could even lead them into mental disorder. In its response, Korea YMCA has been endeavoring to develop Christian values in the hearts of the youth. More specifically, Korea YMCA has hosted a series of ‘Fora for Youth’ during 1996-98 in order to cultivate a ‘discussion -oriented culture’ among youth and thus to enhance their independently problem-solving ability. A good example of this effort can be taken from the ‘High School Y Summer Retreat’ which was revived in 1997. This provided the opportunity for around 500 high school Y members to got together and come in better terms with each other and even seek their own identity as YMCA youth. What is more, Korea YMCA hosted regular workshops for volunteer youth leaders, so that they can pursue together a new direction of the youth movement.
On the other hand, a movement for educational reform has been em-phasizing the importance of a new type of education – being abundant in creativity and diversity – unlike the present education lacking the afore-mentioned elements. A proposed draft for the university entrance programme of 2002 under the title of ‘Education Vision 2002: Creating New School Culture’ was released as an outcome of joint efforts among youth-related NGOs towards educational reform.
Work with Young Adults and University YMCAs
The goal of Young adults programme is to help realize a true community life by act-ing as a driving force towards building civil society. ‘Young Adults Y’ has about 50 active clubs nationwide at present -at the end of 1997. It is trying to set a model of Young Adults’ service to their communities.
University YMCA movement ‘ which focuses on developing YMCAs leadership relevant to future Korean society, has been making its efforts to seek a new direction of ’21st Century Christian Students’ Movement’ and a new para-digm for a just, sustainable and compassionate society. Currently, University YMCAs have been active in laying out its future path and extending various kinds of activities to help campus society overcome its grow-ing cultural trends toward depression, privatization and commercialism.
Case Study: A Nationwide Green Shop Movement
In recent days, social insta-bility and uneasiness stem-ming from the rapid eco-nomic depression has be-come rampant in Korean society. At the moment, right after the situation when we faced the national bank-ruptcy, Korean society is still going through the deep heart of its hardship such as highly soaring up unemployment and mass layoff created by the socalled Structural Adjustment. In order to over-come the present economic and social crisis, we need an approach which seems dif-ferent from the past ones. The ‘Myth of Growth’ which was praised during the period of development, does not seem relevant any more in seeking ways to overcome these crises. How can we disseminate the way of life, in which we share our resources together even though they are not enough. We firmly believe that one of the solutions to the present crisis lies in the transformation of consumption patterns towards ‘Sustainable Consumerism’, by which people consume sustainably and share with neighbors.
Overcoming Consumerism through Sharing and Cooperation
In Korea, it did not take so long for Koreans to reach the present state of oversupply from the state of absolute poverty in 1950s. Regrettably, the rapid economic development was accompanied by the rapid socio-cultural changes, which led to the dissolution of communities. With the result of economic growth after 1980s, there was a revolutionary change in the citizens’ consumption pattern. There was tremendous increase in consumption in almost every home including increased use of elec-tronic goods, furniture, various kitchen products, cars, etc. It became a dominant tendency for everyone to seek newer, more expensive, bigger, more famous-labeled goods, and goods with multi-functions. It natu-rally led to tremendous increase of wastes. The used, but still usable goods are increasing but people cannot find the people who need these goods. We have reached a state where we could share, but there has not been any neighbor or community to and through which we could share.
Beginning of Green Shop Movement in Korea
In 1993, the women members of Kwachun YMCA Organising Commit-tee made an attempt to open a periodical Flea Market every month, which became quite a success through citizen’s participation. A sec-ond-hand market was formed, where not only the YMCA members but also ordinary citizens, youth and even children with their parents brought their used goods and exchanged with each other, and sometimes sold.
This programme has gained a good reputation with the community. After acknowledging the volunteer efforts of these women, the Kwachun local government offered some space at a public building for them to establish a permanent shop. With confidence gained by the first attempt, these YMCA members opened a permanent second hand shop at a corner of the Kwachun Citizen’s Hall in the name of ‘Green Shop’. In the beginning, they were worried whether citizens would bring their used goods spontaneously or not. To their surprise, however, it was beyond their expectation that citizens brought their used goods voluntarily. It proves, in a sense, that there were many unnecessary used goods in almost every home due to over-supply and over-consumption. The YMCAs survey in 1997 re-confirmed the above-men-tioned fact.
From the beginning, the Green Shop made a couple of operating principles. They were determined not to seek profit, that is, to stick to non-profit principle. They also strengthened the principle of public character by using a public space offered by the city government with no renting fee. They also sought the prin-ciple of voluntarism by oper-ating the shop without em-ploying any full-time staff. They thoroughly depended on voluntary participation of members. Based on the successful experience of the Kwachun Green Shop, the efforts to multiply this idea began from August 1997.
Expansion of Green Shop Movement
At the initial stage, a ‘Green Shop Movement Center’ was established at the Depart-ment of Civil Society Devel-opment in Seoul YMCA in order to implement the Green Shop Movement. And then, the Center began to prepare ‘Operating Rules’, ‘Guide Book for the Green Shop’ and other education materials for volunteers.
In October 1997, two Green Shops opened at Seoul YMCA Seoch Branch and Nokbeon Community Welfare Center. Each branch, with the cooperation of the Green Shop Movement Center, organized an conducted educational programmes for housewives who volunteered to participate in the Green Shop Movement. In one Green Shop by and large, 20 – 30 volunteers participate in operating the Shop. In order to avoid renting cost, all the Green Shops were established mainly in the lobby of the YMCA branches. These guiding principles have been applied to all the Green Shops. From that time on, the Green Shops were spread out to most of the Seoul YMCA branches and, with the coordination of the National Council, further to different local YMCAs. A Daily Newspaper participated in this campaign by period cally reporting on various activities of Green Shops. It has further accelerated the expansion of the Green Shops towards different local areas as well as to different NGOs.
It was decided that the Green Shop Movement Center would be open to every NGO who wants to establish and operate the Shop. The Center made contracts with participating NGOs in order for the Shops not to be operated for profit. Upon their agreement on the operatin principles, the Center entitled them to use the name ‘Green Shop’ Once the contract was made, the Green Shop was operated independently without any intervention from the Center. As of 15 August 1999 the total number of the Green Shops in operation is 58. Among them the Seoul YMCA directly runs 7 Shops, and other local YMCAs run 3 Shops, while 20 Shops are run by different NGOs.
ConclusionThe sustainability in a certain society cannot be measured only by economic strength or level of social infrastructure. More importantly the so-called ‘Social Capital’ such as collective citizenship, the Ievel of citizens’ social practice and the ability to mobilise citizens’ collectiv efforts towards public good should also be considered as contributing factors in measuring sustainability. In this context, the Green Shop can play a role as a ‘Platform’ for community-based programmes which not only encourages individual practices, but also integrates these individual practices into collective social action.
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Emphasis and goals for the next quadriennum
The mission statement of Bangladesh YMCA was formulated through a process, taking into consideration the elements of the mission statements of the constituent local YMCAs of Bangladesh. The mission statement of the Bangladesh YMCA was formulated at the National Leaders Conference held in the month October 1996 and adopted at the 20th Annual General Meeting of the National Council of YMCAs of Bangladesh held on 10 January, 1997.
‘The Young Men’s Christian Association is a membership based, Christ centered, indigenous, international, voluntary, ecumenical youth movement. Being the witness of Christ, we commit ourselves, to work unitedly for a humanitarian society to attain justice and peace in Bangladesh.’
Empowerment of the people has become imperative to sustain the development efforts in our country. Development becomes meaningless in our context if our people do not have the capacity to sustain it. Building people’s organizations has proved to be effective in this process. People’s organization is basically an association which is self-governed and self-sustained by the people at the grass-root level. Decisions are taken by participatory method by the members involved in this process. The PVDO (Private Voluntary Development Organization) plays a facilitative and supportive role in this process. The YMCA movement in Bangladesh re-affirms to work for the extension of the Kingdom of God in order to restore the distorted image of humanity through building People’s Organizations.
This was affirmed at the 14th General Assembly of the Asia Alliance of the YMCAs held in 1995 and the re-entry plan was elaborately worked out at the Sub-regional Conference on Empowerment of the People held in Dhaka in 1996.
The National Movement of YMCAs in Bangladesh has been involved in this process for the empowerment of the people since 1989. In this process Community Organizing Program was initiated as a peoples empowerment process in the economic and socio-political areas. The local YMCAs situated in different parts of the country were involved in this process. The thrust of the Community Organizing Program is to empower its beneficiaries in three major areas. The Economical Empowerment, Social Empowerment and Political Empowerment. We believe empowering the people in these three areas will bring a positive change in their lives
From the Field
Korea YMCA is working to help people realise the implications of global interdependency and to create networks of solidarity between various peoples. Korea YMCA is seeking creative ways to help people find their identity as global citizens to bring peace on earth.
Sino-Korea-Japan YMCA Youth Work Camp: “Planting Seeds of Peace”
In Northeast Asia memories of recent history mean it is not so easy to develop a culture of international cooperation.
Desertification is a rapidly increasing problem in western China. As a result, every March and April Korean and Japanese peoples as well as the Chinese suffer from polluted “yellow sand” wind. In the long term, this deforestation and desertification could cause a massive environmental disaster for China as well as other countries in the region. So the three YMCAs of China, Korea and Japan jointly came up with the idea of a tree planting campaign and suggested a Youth Camp to prevent environmental disaster. In August 2005 40 young people from different countries in Northeast Asia participated in the camp. The programme included peace education, seminars on environmental issues, and tree planting in an Inner Mongolian desert.
The Korean youth who participated in the camp learnt not only about the impact of the yellow sand wind, but also about the transnational character of the environment and development. Most of all, participants realised that they could cooperate regardless of the their nationality by becoming global citizens through diverse experiences of solidarity.
Youth Solidarity – East Timor Peace Work Camp
The Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs recently established a YMCA in East Timor, supported financially and with human resources by the Korea and Japan YMCAs. They also hoped to encourage East Timorese youth to join the YMCA and commit themselves to social rebuilding activities. With this in mind a Youth Peace Work Camp was held in East Timor in 2005.
Youth from developed countries began to reflect on the value of industrialisation and what happiness really means – individually and collectively. Timorese youth were eager to envision for lasting development in their country, so they discussed together seriously what alternative development is. Additionally Korean youth noticed that some Timorese had a desire to come to Korea as migrant workers, and this reminded Koreans about the human rights situation of migrant workers in Korea.
The East Timor Camp was not about helping and providing services to the Timorese but about sharing friendships and finding a shared vision for a peaceful common future.
Fair Trade Campaign – a “Cup of Peace”
Why is the gap between the poor and the rich widening in spite of economic development? One reason is definitely the unfair trade system. The farmers of agriculture-based countries do not have many choices when selling their products. To prevent their agricultural products from spoiling, they have to sell them, even at very low prices. One of the most dramatic examples is coffee. When people in Korea enjoy coffee in a café like Starbucks, they are not aware that less than 1% of the price they pay goes to the coffee farmers. Korea YMCA hopes to help people become more socially responsible by making them realise the many disadvantages in the so-called free trade system. So Korea YMCA started a direct purchase system with farmers of East Timor, buying raw coffee beans for a higher price from farmers so they would have fair wages. After processing the beans, the Korea YMCA sells the coffee to Korean consumers.
To promote this Fair Trade campaign, Korea YMCA made an agreement with various civic organisations such as the National Association of Labour Unions, and the profits from the sale of the coffee go to East Timor for sustainable community development, such as creating a community self-help association. This Peace Coffee Campaign shows an alternative method of consumption – an ethical consumption as a global citizen. People realise they can participate in peace-building by consciously purchasing a cup of coffee, and this can be a way for an ordinary citizen to extend global citizenship: a small act of intervention in an international trade system.
Jung-Hwa, Hwang , Secretary for Uni-Y , National Council of YMCAs of Korea
Extract from YMCA World Magazine on : Global Citizenship, June 200