The Internet, Policy & Politics Conferences

Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford

Hwang: Engaging Public Online: An exploratory study on the citizen participation via online in Korea


Hwang, S., Yeungnam University, Korea


This research proposes to examine citizen participation online (e-participation: e-deliberation, e-consultation, e-engagement), particularly looking at the case of Korea. Information Communication Technology (ICT) has been widely adopted by and diffused to both public and civil sectors in many countries. Korea has recently become a test bed for many information technology tools, particularly in the e-government and e-democracy domains. Many of the e-government evaluation indexes, including those of the UN and Brown University, rank the municipal and national e-government sites of Korea very high on the list.

Why should we treat e-participation as an important feature of government practice and research? In looking at normative theory, stakeholders in society (citizens of the country, residents of locality, etc) are entitled to participate in the decision making process, consultation process, and rule-making process of public policy, public administration and politics. As a governance tool, citizen participation can lead to effective and good governance. Given these, there is an assumption that ICT, particularly the notion of Web 2.0 can improve citizen participation in the political and governance process.

Innovation and citizen satisfaction can be two key concepts of e-participation aspect of e-government initiatives. The advancement of technology triggered innovation, reinvention, and reform in the government sector to enhance the responsiveness and efficiency of government services. Governments today make an effort to utilize the advancement of technology well to promote interaction and communication between the government and citizens to increase the citizen’s trust and satisfaction.

Some scholars in Europe also have looked at e-participation and e-consultation, stressing the point of citizen’s involvement through IT. This is a part of or a big overlap with e-governance scholarship, but with more of a focus on citizen participation. Macintosh(2006, p. 365) defined e-participation as "the use of information and communication technologies to broaden and deepen political participation by enabling citizens to connect with one another and with their elected representatives.” E-consultation can be defined as “the use of electronic computing and communication technologies in consultation processes and is complimentary to existing practices,” according to this e-consultation research project.

The proposed research questions are “Is there a meaningful public participation online in Korea? Does the advanced 21st century information technology improve citizen participation? If yes, then how? How does that change agenda setting process (in relation to traditional offline)?
In conducting this research, we will look at a few key government websites of Korea where people submit policy proposals and such. For example, since 2005,a few major citizen participation endeavors have been implemented. They are e-ombudsman (Shin-moon-go), the Korean Information Disclosure System (Open Government), e-rulemaking of the e-Assembly, and Call & Change (110 Service.

Being an exploratory case study, this research can be effective in investigating a new phenomenon (e-participation). First, this research will utilize content analysis (on the web) on how and what kinds of policy proposals the public suggest. Second, this research will interview some civil servants who deal with policy proposals submitted online. Third, we intend to make a case survey (meta-analysis) on which policy proposals were adopted and which were not adopted. Thus, the mixed method approach will be used in analyzing the data.

This research aims to contribute to the fairly new discussion of e-governance and e-participation in public administration and political science. It will also aim to further move forward to make a comparative study with matching up to the cases of U.S. A. and UK.

Sungsoo Hwang