Participatory Science and Technology Policy-Making in Korea: A Critical Assessment
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Since the early 1990s the necessity and desirability of public participation in S&T policy-making has been widely discussed and advocated among STS scholars and social movement groups in Korea. Responding to these pressures from civil society and academic circles, the Korean government has gradually introduced elements of public participation in S&T policy making processes. Social movements and civic NGOs began, on their part, to demand that public voices should be consulted and heard in S&T policy making which had been so far regarded as the exclusive realm of a small group of policy makers (bureaucrats) and S&T experts, and in some cases were successful in influencing the shaping of S&T policy and research agenda. This paper aims at analyzing and assessing the current state and problems of public participation in S&T policy-making in Korea and at proposing policy suggestions to improve and enhance such participatory S&T policy-making in Korea. For this purpose, using and slightly modifying the framework developed by Bucchi and Neresini (2008), a couple of cases of public participation in Korea are analyzed. The cases of public participation in S&T policy-making in Korea discussed in this paper are as follows. a) Public participation in high-level policy-making bodies: National Science and Technology Council, National Energy Committee, and National Bioethics Committee b) Public participation in technology assessment (TA): official ('sponsored') TA vs. 'spontaneous' TA organized by NGOs c) Public participation in shaping policy and research agenda: work-related musculoskeletal disorders. In investigating these cases, the analytical focus has been on the following dimensions of public participation. a) Who participates? Who sets the agenda for the process? b) At what stage in the policy making process does public participation take place? c) To what extent can we say that the output of public participation has had an impact or influence on policy? To find the answer to these questions, an extensive literature survey and a series of interviews with policy makers, researchers, and activists involved in public participation have been done. A couple of seminars were also organized with researchers well versed in these issues. As a result of these case studies, we could find the following preliminary results. - The Korean government has been quite hesitant and sometimes rather reluctant in introducing elements of public participation in S&T policy making processes, thus resulting in the criticism that its commitment to public participation is dubious and questionable. - Social movements and NGOs in Korea are not well prepared for public participation in S&T policy making, particularly in terms of both expertise and resources required for such participation and relationships between them and their representatives involved in policy making processes. In conclusion, policy suggestions are proposed for more effective public participation in S&T policy processes in Korea. Acknowledgement This paper is based on the project on the same topic, which was carried out at the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STEPI) (http://www.stepi.re.kr) in 2008. Thanks are due to the STEPI for financial support. References Bucchi, M. and F. Neresini (2008), "Science and Public Participation", in Hackett, E. J., O. Amsterdamska, M. Lynch, and J. Wajcman (eds.) (2008), The Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, Third Edition, The MIT Press, 449-472.