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Grass Roots Democracy

George Won, In-Hwan Oh
Published: 1 October 1983

Abstract: This is a sample study of two chapters of the Korean Automobile and Transport Workers' Union (KATWU), located in the capitol city of Seoul, Korea. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether the membership of the union had lost their zest for democratic governance within the union organization in light of the government's restrictive control of union activities and the bureaucratization of the organization. Results of the survey reveal that the rank and file of KATWU have been effectively using the procedural guarantees imposed by the government even in the absence of a formalized party system. The rank and file have been active in the election process and by their participation in the internal government of the union, have established control of the leadership structure. Without a true adversarial relationship with management and with the intrusion of government in the affairs of labor and management, it is questionable whether labor leaders can fully exercise the power of force they have behind them. In this sense, accountability is difficult to test. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the rank and file have established a pattern of leadership accountability by retaining control of the leadership structure.
Keywords: labor movement / Korean Labor / Grass Roots Democracy / democracy / Exercise / bureaucratization / file / labor / Katwu / Leadership Structure / government / Union

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