Everyday Democracy Connects with Democracy Builders in South Korea

Sandy Rodriguez
October 18, 2017

“The plane has just entered the Korean peninsula from China.  I can see rugged mountains below, and the coast of the Yellow Sea.  We will fly to the west of P’yongyang over North Korea.  It’s odd to say the least to be this close to such a sensitive and volatile part of the world at this moment in history, on my way to speak about democracy in a country that was created by agreement of the US and Soviet Union at the end of WW II.  Both South Korea and North Korea have the goal of unification of the peninsula, but the two countries couldn’t be more different in their allegiances, economies, politics, and cultures.” 


These are the mid-flight thoughts of Bruce L. Mallory, Co-Director, NH Listens at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire an anchor partner with Everyday Democracy.   Bruce was en route to Seoul, South Korea, on behalf of Everyday Democracy to deliver a keynote address, and workshop to approximately 550 teachers, professors, activists, community leaders, city and national elected officials at the SMILE Conference (SMILE stands for Seoul Metropolitan Institute for Life Long Education).


In reference to Everyday Democracy’s “study circles” and “dialogue to change” process, Bruce noted that the people he met with in South Korea, from the educators on up to the Mayor are familiar with our work, have read our materials and stories, and want to emulate the mission as they strive for a stronger, peaceful democratic nation.  In candid (often translated) conversations with conference attendees, many were excited about the John Dewey quote – “Democracy has to be born anew every generation and education is its midwife.”  This quote struck a nerve, and seems to encapsulate the core ethic in this group that education and democracy are interdependent, and lifelong education/learning is the way to build democratic practice. 


Also speaking at the SMILE conference were two colleagues doing similar work in Japan and Sweden and the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon (박원순 / 朴元淳) who holds perhaps the second most powerful position in South Korea after the President.   The Mayor focused on one of the key framings of the conference moving from “square” democracy to “everyday” democracy.  Square democracy refers to the months of weekly protests that took place earlier in the year at public squares calling for the impeachment of President Pak who was accused of corruption and impeached.  After the impeachment, elections were quickly held, leading to the first peaceful transition of a Korean administration.  Bruce summarized the knowledge sharing at the conference as delightful and energizing.


If you would like to get a copy of Bruce’s slides from the conference, contact Liz Dupont-Diehl at or (860) 937-6671.

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Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.