Cheong Wa Dae to Revamp Petition Website After Abuses

  • By Choi Yeon-jin, Lee Min-seok

    November 23, 2018 13:05

    Cheong Wa Dae has started redesigning its petition website after it became a forum for anyone to vent their spleen and was swamped with trivial messages.

    In many instances the public also used the website in an effort to pressure judges to arrive at particular rulings. Cheong Wa Dae previously defended the trend, saying it was useful for the public to have any kind of outlet.

    But a ruling party source said, "Cheong Wa Dae probably found it impossible in the end to sit and watch angry and irrational demands pile up."

    A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "After considering the problems that have been cited, we are coming up with changes that will minimize the negative aspects and bolster the proper functions of the website." The official said the revamp is set to be completed next year but gave no detail on how it is to be achieved. "Rather than aiming for a huge overhaul, we are discussing changes focusing on remedying the issues that have been raised," the official added.

    One solution could be to only allow people to leave comments under their real names, which typically discourages frivolous comments and abuse, as well as refusing to respond to issues that are outside the jurisdiction of the presidential office.

    Cheong Wa Dae opened the website in August last year to mark President Moon Jae-in's 100th day in office. The idea came from former U.S. President Barack Obama's "We the people" petition website, which obliged the White House to respond if a petition gathered a certain number of signatures.

    Cheong Wa Dae set the bar at 200,000 signatures. So far 55 petitions have received government responses on issues ranging from reforming the penal system for juvenile offenders to abortion. Some of the issues were reflected in policy decisions.

    But there have been growing instances of insulting and malicious comments on the website, which does not require user verification. There were also cases of fake news being mistaken for real after being posted on the website. Some petitions were completely absurd, including a call to disband boy band Bangtan Boys, also known as BTS or force a national football team member to remove a tattoo on his arm.

    Some petitions posted on issues that lie outside Cheong Wa Dae's jurisdiction raised concerns of the abuse of presidential power. Many of these cases were calls to reform the law or overturn court decisions.

    The White House website does not accept petitions opposing or supporting elected officials or areas involving judicial decisions and state governments.

    The National Assembly Research Service pointed out the problems plaguing the Cheong Wa Dae website in a recent report that said its "effectiveness is being weakened" due to a large number of petitions outside Cheong Wa Dae's jurisdiction, and responses could lead to confusion. Suggested solutions included refusing to respond to certain petitions and changes to the method of posting them.

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