[Gyeonggi Studies Communication] Meaning and Necessity of Local Community

Meaning and Necessity of Local Community

Writer: Lee Jihun, Director of the Center for Gyeonggi Studies

In 1995, the local autonomy system of our country was been reborn by the election of heads of local autonomous governments and members of local assemblies. Since then, for 25 years, whereas local autonomy has become normal in the lives of the people, it is still hard to say that the actual participation and autonomy of residents based on the 'regional community' has been achieved. On the contrary, there is also a view that “Local community spirit" is greatly weakening due to rapid social changes. In fact, increasingly, there have been more and more things that are difficult for the government to solve independently without the active participation and cooperation of the residents, with the local problems that occur in everyday life. Since local community spirit plays a role in helping residents to recognize local problems and to jointly solve these problems, forming and strengthening this is the realization of true residents' autonomy, and furthermore, is the basis for decentralization.

Community is defined as a social group that shares the environment, with the same interest and consciousness. Therefore, ‘Community Spirit’ is a sense of belonging that people are members of the community. Since this sense is the base of individual community contributions, it will play a key role in forming communities.

So, what is a ‘local community’? It is ‘A group of residents that closely interact and pursue common values and goals, having communal social and emotional bonds based on a certain area’, as a sub-unit of the state. The local community consists of 3 elements: ① 'Regionality', operating within geographically limited space, ② Active 'Social Interaction' between members, ③ a ‘Common Bond’ that conveys a sense of belonging and forms a social identity. Recently, ‘Public Interest’ is included as the 4th element. While traditional communities form close bonds by interaction through direct meetings within a certain geographical area, modern communities overcome weakened locality and form an open common bond through indirect interaction, which is considered to be the most important factor.

Community spirit has been destroyed under the rapid process of social change with rapid urbanization and industrialization, which has led to social conflict and distrust, disasters and accidents, environmental destruction, and corruption. This overall decay has been the cause of great degradation in the quality of life. Therefore, the development of local communities means reducing social evils and enabling sustainable regional development and residents' participation. Local communities in the age of local autonomy may be the most important alternative, for soling things such as generating the will for self-evolving solutions for social problems (welfare, education and safety) due to insufficient response from the central government, and solving local economic problems in the era of low growth.

The participants of local communities are many, and comprise basically, residents, governments (central and local governments), enterprises, interim support organizations, self-sustaining organizations (civil organizations, etc.), experts and more. Local community relationships exist in many types according to classification criteria, such as resident-government relationships, leading entities, type of organizations, nature of businesses, target elements, etc., and they are sometimes divided into categories of residents' participation, residents’ planning, and residents’ initiatives, depending on the capabilities of the community and the administrative conditions.

To improve the quality of life for local residents and to help them form sustainable communities by promoting activities or projects locally, it is necessary to spread the leading role and purpose beyond the members of the community, to the communities and to the communities in the vicinity. Recently, the central and local governments are paying attention to the needs and roles of local communities, and are looking for ways to support community development through relevant policies and projects. Local governments play a role in supporting various policies of central government departments in carrying out community projects, and have a mission to push ahead with a variety of projects to revitalize the community. However, the keyword to community revitalization is ‘National Initiative’. The local community is an activity subject to the requirement that residents form their own communities and pursue public interest activities for themselves. We anticipate that the government and local governments would implement the basic policy of fostering subjects to solve public problems in our society, a form of public-private partnerships through activating local communities.

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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