Advancing Democracy through Diversity and Inclusion: Emilia Palonen's Insights at the 2024 Kyunghyang Forum in Seoul, South Korea

On 26 June 2024, Emilia Palonen attended the "2024 Kyunghyang Forum" discussion in Seoul, South Korea, with the theme "Hope of Diversity and Inclusion in the Age of Division."

Her keynote speech addressed "The Direction of Finnish Democracy from the Perspective of Diversity and Inclusion," highlighting her participation in and analysis of the Maunula House initiatives.


Emilia discussed that the Maunula experiment was "helpful in promoting citizens' policy participation and representing their perspectives." She evaluated the success of the Maunula experiment, suggesting that the citizen-centred model of democracy can be one of the breakthroughs for the current crisis of democracy.


Emilia diagnosed that Finland is facing a crisis in democracy, including the rise of austerity politics, anti-immigration sentiments, and security threats from Russia. She emphasised the need for discussion on democracy, saying, "The restoration of diversity and inclusion is urgent."


She added, "In order to create a flexible and inclusive society, we must understand the diverse positions and needs of citizens, reflect them more horizontally, and link them to solutions."


Emilia noted that implementing a participatory model of democracy can be challenging, given that the South Korean population is ten times that of Finland, and added, “It is important to consider the heterogeneity of the participants.”


Later at the same forum, Emilia joined a panel discussion on "Conversations on Restoration and Progress of Democracy" with co-panellists including Yan Xuetong, Director of the Institute of International Relations at Tsinghua University in China, Yascha Mounk, Professor at the Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of International Studies in the United States, and Lee Kwan-hoo, Professor at Konkuk University's Sanghe College of Liberal Arts in South Korea. The event was chaired by Choi Tae-hyeon, a Professor at Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Administration.


During the panel, Emilia discussed the relationship between populism and democracy, highlighting the positive roles populist politics and demands can play in deepening democracy. Emilia argued that populism is part of democracy (though populist phenomena are not limited to democratic societies), leading to active citizen participation and political leaders' receptivity to ordinary people's demands. However, she also pointed out that populist rhetoric and performances can be used to benefit the ruling class, such as by justifying their power and promoting accompanying racism.


At the same forum, two Korean scholars, Lee and Choi, discussed fandom-populism manifested in South Korean politics and elections. Emilia discussed fandom as part of populism in other countries, including Hungary in the early 2000s. She argued that fandom and populism have both positive and negative aspects, from engaging people in politics to increasing polarisation based on partisanship and support for specific candidates. Emilia suggested that understanding populist politics not only vertically but also horizontally between different socio-political groups and demands is the proper way to understand populism democratically.


As a concluding remark on the future of democracy and youth politics, Emilia provided hopeful comments on youth politics. She mentioned young female leaders continuously being elected across the world, who can offer critiques and alternative visions to address issues such as climate change and capitalism. She expressed her gratitude and excitement for the future of youth politics.

27 June - the roundtable discussion organised by Mokwon University's Social Innovation Centre

The following day, on the 27th, Emilia joined the roundtable discussion organised by Mokwon University's Social Innovation Centre, Daejeon Jung District, and other organisations, addressing "New Paths for Local Governance." In her keynote speech, Emilia discussed her participation in and analysis of the 2012-16 Maunula House initiatives.


Emilia argued that the Maunula project created a democratic space for Maunula residents, organised meetings, held open discussions, and engaged in role-playing to represent different viewpoints. The experimental democracy initiative rejected a top-down model of democracy.


Emilia explained, “Through this process, we experienced autonomy and trustworthy collaboration and laid the foundation for a joint governance model.”


She added, “The process of representing the will of the citizens was not easy. There were times when I thought that the democratic model of participation, cooperation, and decision-making should be revised with each generation."


“Democracy, inclusiveness, and citizen-led governance should not be weakened. Local democracy and welfare are key to combating violent radicalisation,” Emilia emphasised.

지역 거버넌스의 새로운 길을 묻다 Asking for a new path to regional governance