The National Election Commission (NEC) of South Korea has a separate institute entitled ‘Korean Civic Education Institute for Democracy”. The NEC’s Korea Civic Education Institute for Democracy was established in 1996 for job training of the public officials at the Election Commission. Its main duty is to educate and train the officials so that the 9-member commission, the National and city/province commissions, and township/ward commissions properly function. In 2000, a political education department was newly set up in response to the social and political need since political awareness is crucial in electing qualified political leaders. With the new political education department, civic education programs have been offered to voters and politicians. Since 2005 the education programs have been offered to the youth, the future voters, making the institute a mecca for civic education. The Korea Civic Education Institute for Democracy has been recognized for its role in increasing civic awareness and serves as a hub for civic education in Korea by providing educational institutes and civic organizations with educational contents, lecturer, programs, and information.
The Institute has three major civic education programmes: (1) civic education for elementary, middle and high school teachers. The contents of this program is training for how to open children’s minds and methods to cultivate creativity, (2) civic education for general voters including university students, future voters, ordinary voters. The contents of these programs aim to prepare voters to have more political awareness, cooperative mindedness, leadership, and there are also special programs to help North Korean refugees prepare themselves to exercise their voting rights in the south, (3) civic education for opinion leaders such as journalists and NGO members in order for them to take a desirable role in democratic civic society. In addition, the institute has a Democratic Governance Academy to enhance democratic leadership programme for female leaders, college student leaders, youth leaders, and future leaders.
The background for the NEC’s active role in offering civic education programs can be summarized as following:
- The Commission’s political neutrality is constitutionally guaranteed.
- People’s trust for neutrality and impartiality of the Commission based on the 46 years of election management.
- 16 city/province commissions and 249 township/ward commissions can be mobilized effectively for systematic civic education during a non-election period.
However, these are only necessary foundations for conducting civic education. More important factor is the Commission’s strong willingness to respond to the demand of the times based on the role it played for the development of democracy during the postwar era of Korea. The NEC can be considered as one of the most active agencies in the world for fair administration of elections and promotion of democracy.