The 1990s witnessed various political, social, economic, and cultural changes due to the popularization and proliferation of computer-mediated communication. However, progressive social movements have also been restricted by these same forces.
Text-based BBSs , which appeared in mid of 1980s, were originally used by a small number of people, but today a lot of social movement groups run closed user groups (CUGs) and a number of activists have user commercial BBS memberships. Computer-mediated communication is now the main means of communication for progressive movement groups. The Telecommunication Taskgroup for General Strike in January 1997 showed that computer networks can play a useful organizing role across borders for each sector of the movement.
However, the more popular BBSs and the Internet become, the more political censorship and oppression increases. Since capital and state are staking their claim over computer-mediated communications, a positive future is not guaranteed for progressive social movements. Therefore, the grassroots must organize beyond localities and frontiers to ensure a hopeful future.
There have been a few attempts to build solidarity through computer-mediated in the communications among social movements in Korea. However, the infrastructure and tools were created not so much by our will and efforts as by the state and new media capital. We know well that any network of state and capital can easily be transformed into a network of censorship and oppression.
The foundation of the Korean Progressive Network Center was proposed to warn against this danger and to build a computer infrastructure and tools designed for the projects and the power of the social movements and the principle of progressive social transformation. Through the foundation of the Korean Progressive Network Center, we want to be free from the intervention of capital by securing an independent information infra-structure.
It also works for the ICT policy movement to expand and improve the protection of basic human rights in the information society, for examples, freedom of expression, right to privacy, rights to access and public domain. Jinbonet is a member of Association for Progressive Communications (http://www.apc.org).
* To build solidarity by improving communication among various social movements and the general population
The election of Kim Dae-jung as president in 1997 demonstrated a peaceful turn-over of political power, a long desired dream. However, the economic status and human rights of Koreans have been weakened under the IMF trusteeship, and the government is carrying out an even more capitalist-oriented policy. So, substantial democratic changes has been rolled and the people's rights are still threatened.
Meanwhile, the pro-democracy movements that have continued since 1987 are now divided into class-based mass movements (including labor) and various socials grassroots movements. The combined strength of all progressive movements, however, has not been realized because rather than coming together the movements are scattered individually.
During the IMF era, in which economic policy decisions are made internationally, this situation cannot be solved on the national level. Instead, international solidarity is needed. But, progressive movements don't have the capacity to participate on this level. So, the Korean Progressive Network Center will build this capacity by constructing a network that connects social movements to social movements, social movements to people, individuals to individuals, and national movements to international movements, in order to overcome the isolation of the progressive movements. By building a new social joint front we intend to build international solidarity among progressive movements.
* To solve the problems that progressive groups face in their use of computer networks.
The Closed User Group (usually run on a commercial BBS or internet website) is the main tool used by progressive groups. For example, the KCTU manages a CUG in Nownuri (one of the main commercial BBS in Korea) and about 1,300 people use it. The KCTU utilizes the network for organizing activity by exchanging e-mail and conducting online discussions. The KCTU's movement has spent over 10 million won (about US$ 8,000 ) per month for these service (which were not designed for social movements and it has to pay for a website separately). A CUG in a commercial BBS is beyond the budgets of small groups and it is difficult for them to use Internet services like websites or mailing lists. Korean Progressive Network Center will allow activist groups to easily use not only BBSs but also Internet services with minimum expense.
* To centrally collect information from progressive movements SV more people can access it.
There are pockets of progressive groups in every BBS and throughout the Internet. Some consist of CUGs within commercial BBSs, and others are regular websites. All these valuable fruits of progressive movements are scattered various commercial networks, and moreover, BBS services and websites are themselves separated from each other. Thus, one can't find the information one needs, so the individual efforts to construct and maintain the databases are in vain and the synergy effect which can be expected from close linkages among various pieces of information is lost.
The Korean Progressive Network Center will allow easy access to the fruits of progressive movements by constructing an independent information infrastructure.
* An Independent network from state and capital is required.
Nowadays, lots of progressive groups use commercial communication services. This is inevitable because there is no independent infrastructure for progressive groups. We need an independent network from state and capital in order to maintain our own ideas and principles. The advantages are as follows.
First, only the Korean Progressive Network Center, which exists independently and on behalf of progressive movements, can fight against the intervention of power, like censorship and limitations to the freedom of communication. Commercial networks have limited ability to defend freedom of expression and communication from the intervention of power. An example is the inspection of individual mail by the Agency for National Security Planning during May 1997. Another example is the censorship of Hanchongryon (Korean Confederation of Students' Councils). Only an independent network of progressive movements can overcome these limitations.
Second, commercial network services cannot provide all the services that progressive movements need because they operate for a profit. Various services meeting the needs and conditions of progressive movements will be developed and built with the goal of strengthening progressive movements, not generating a profit.