Looking back on General Girl Student Council’s Past Activities and thier Roles
Starting from December 2nd, 2013, newly elected members of General Girl Student Council, Choi Eun-mi and Lee Soo-ji, will begin its activities as the 27th General Girl Student Council. They have set out some public pledges that clearly show the difference between previous General Girl Student Council. However, even with their stocky ambition, there has been a question on the existence of General Girl Student Council itself.
“In fact, I do not know why General Girl Student Council exists in our campus. I think the activities or events that they have done such as providing blankets and slippers could be also done by General Student Council.” The comment above is a student’s opinion about General Girl Student Council, extracted from the online community Dyeon. Besides these comments, there are some comments that cast doubts on the purpose of General Girl Student Council by saying its existence creates reverse discrimination and shows misleading action of feminist.
In 1980s, the early General Girl Student Council was established in agreement with most of students with the purpose of keeping all the discrimination and disadvantages that female students can face due to the social norms at the time. However, as society has changed, women’s position became more stable and because of this stableness there have been arguments that it is discrimination if there is a support to one specific gender group. Because of these reasons, currently there are some universities without General Girl Student Council such as Dongguk University Gyeong-ju Campus and Seoul National University. Also, Yeonsei University has announced that they will place General Girl Student Council as a Student Council affiliated organization. If the campus trend is to remove the General Girl Student Council in other universities, should we not consider the existence of Dongguk’ s General Girl Student Council as well?
Looking back on the significant activities of General Girl Student Council, roughly there are welfare aspect and event aspect of activities. First, for the welfare part, the council has been annually setting a vaccination booth for the prevention of cervical cancer. Also, during the exam period, it has allowed students to borrow slippers and blankets. It has done some group purchase on some necessities that female students need such as sanitary pad, hand cream, lip balm, stockings, and self-defense spray. Additionally, the council propelled rule to excuse absence for the female students who are suffering from menstruation pain. Before the council proposed this agenda to the school, it has conducted a survey on 1,693 students about the period-excuse absent rule by creating supporters called “Why Not?” After the supporters’ investigation on student awareness was done, the school has set a demonstration implementing for the period-excuse absent rule.
For general events, on October 17th, they provided free tickets for students to watch the movie “Wish” that deals with an issue about child sexual harassment. After the movie, they had a discussion session regarding the sexual harassment. In addition, they set up a booth called “Kebollakkou” (to destory) from November 5th to 8th, during the fall festival. It was set up to break stereotypes on appearances by having a conversation or breaking a wooden board, which symbolizes an act of breaking the prejudices that are prevalent in the society. Additionally, on November 6th, when Japanese Ambassador of South Korea was invited as a guest lecturer for Pride Dongguk, the sole open-lecture class in Dongguk University, the General Girl Student Council conducted a picket protest that says the relationship between South Korea and Japan cannot develop further unless they apologize for their past actions. Besides from these, the members of council have been participating in a demonstration every Wednesday at noon in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand a sincere apology from the Japanese government for its war crimes, mainly regarding comfort women.
As mentioned above, the General Girl Student Council has done various activities for the improvement in female students’ welfare system and their rights. However, there are some students that argue those activities are not much helpful. This is because the council’s activities can be done by other councils as well, such as the Student Council. Also, it might be an action that exerts discrimination against male students on campus. Meanwhile, some students say the council is beneficial to create more sophisticated campus, because the council provides diverse activities that not only help female students but also represent them as a symbolic group who can stand up for any issues related to claiming rights.
“Many students are still confused with the meaning of its existence. Perhaps now is time to consider its original identity and seek for the kind of roles it should play in university,” shared Lee Han-mae, a professor of Sociology.
With appropriate measurements, the General Girl Student Council could perhaps become the light that leads people to the path where gender discrimination no longer prevails in every society.
Reasons Their Existence Must Continue
The 27th General Girl Student Council President,Choi Eun-mi and Vice President,LeeSu-ji promise that they will strive to overcome the differences every student faces on campus.
/ Photograph by Lee So-young
Despite the past activities that brought question marks on the reason for the General Girl Student Council’s existence, there are many reasons for it to continue. The biggest reason of all is that South Korea is still suffering from achieving gender equality.
South Korea ranked 111th in the gender gap report done in 2013 by World Economic Forum (WEF). WEF’s report analyzed gender equality through measuring how much women contribute and receive from the nation’s economy, health, politics, education, etc. Many other countries, such as Japan, India, and the United Arab Emirates, which are considered to be more conservative than South Korea in terms of women’s roles in a society, were ranked above, each in 105th, 101st, and 109th, respectively.
The report may not be an absolute index to depend on, but it is true the roles women play in the society are lesser than those of men. Yes, the current President is a woman, and South Korean women have advanced a lot if you compare it from the past, but what is also true is that our society still has a room to improve in order to attain complete equality. Sexual discrimination still exists in schools and workplaces. There are certain roles that women are expected to play, such as being a housewife or making dinner for family even if she is a working woman. A lot of these “roles” come from the traditional values that older generations pursued and they are rather strenuous to break away from.
This is the reason General Girl Student Council has to continue its existence. The General Girl Student Council should be a leading group of people that sets a good example to the society searching for an answer to solve the problems of gender bias. As soon as students graduate from universities, they are thrown in work force where sexual disparity prevails. The role of General Girl Student Council, according to Professor Yang Young-jin of Sociology major, “is to educate both male and female about the harm any discrimination brings, especially sexual ones.” He added, “If students do not learn the importance of gender equality from universities, it is highly possible that they will become ignorant of any rights that women rightfully deserve.”
Apart from merely providing slippers and blankets for students to lend, the council should pay more effort in figuring out the essential problems female students face in school. One of them, also one of the gravest, is sexual harassments and violence. “We are hardly protected by any organizations at school and it is difficult to seek for help whenever we are sexually harassed,” a female student, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her concern. She also expressed how the school’s Student Counseling Center is difficult to visit for such problems. “If I get sexually offended, I don’t think I will try to reach any centers, because I will be afraid to reveal myself in front of anyone. It just does not feel safe.”
On the existence of the council, Park Min-jung, who was the President of this year’s General Girl Student Council, expressed her opinion as, “It is still doubtful whether female and male students will be on equal terms without the existence of the General Girl Student Council. It is true that women’s role became fairly equalized today; however, it is an undeniable fact that female students are still exposed to danger and gender discrimination. The council exists to represent the voice of those who are suffering from discrimination.”
Although their terms come to an end, Choi Eun-mi (picture above), the newly elected president, will continue the job left from the previous presidents. “I believe if we continue pursuing the original meaning of the organization, which is to protect the minorities,” Choi shared her thoughts, “students will eventually begin to accept that we need the General Girl Student Council.”
The coming year’s council has suggested several programs they will work on in order to solve the problem the council faces. First, they promised to make lounges for both male and female students. Choi mentioned how creating resting space for only female students can spawn issue of inequality, so she concluded it is best if lounges were made for both sides. Besides from this, she emphasized that she will strive to listen to the stories of the unheard. “As a female student, I know how we have nowhere else to turn to whenever we face difficulties. The council promises to be the one to listen and solve the problems together by holding more campaigns and ceaselessly communicating with the school to modify regulations that can protect the weak ones,” Choi spoke with confidence on the role she expects the council to play next year. They begin their first activity on January 1st, together with all the other student councils. As hopes are high for the newly selected members, the future of the General Girl Student Council is bright.
A Role Model: Gachon University’s General Girl Student Council
“It is more than just an ordinary organization”
While there are endless questions in the existence of a General Girl Student Council, a Gachon University’s sophomore, Jo Min-joo asserted that Gachon definitely needs their General Girl Student Council. She mentioned that she received a lot of help from the council.
“When I felt cold and got sick, I could borrow a blanket from them. When it rained, I could borrow an umbrella. When I needed a sanitary pad, I could borrow it. When I needed to take a rest, I could sleep in the lady’s lounge. When I could not share certain stories with parents, the General Girl Student Council helped me write a card to my parents and they sent it for me. General Girl Student Council is not just an organization and nothing can replace them,” exerted Jo Min-joo.
Gachon University’s General Girl Student Council was founded in 1990 and continues to this day. According to Gachon General Girl Student Council, they are doing a lot of businesses that are needed not only for women but also for men. First, they operate rental service for entire students. Students can borrow umbrella, sanitary pad, blanket, shampoo, rinse, body wash, tongs, BB cream, nail clipper, sewing box and even facial foaming cleanser. Students can borrow these not only in the General Girl Student Council’s office but also in lady’s lounges. The lounges are placed in every building. Work-study students tend the lady lounges and help students in borrowing items. In addition, the General Girl Student Council members visit every lounge twice a week, for a check-up.
Gachon University’s General Girl Student Council held a “Healing Art” program. They offered students to write down their wishes on a handshaped papers and attached them on a board.
/ Photograph from Gachon University
Moreover, they provide diverse programs such as Health Campaign, Purple Ribbon (for cervical cancer), Healing Art, and many lectures. Students can receive counseling on skin care, beauty and plastic surgery in the Health Campaign. In Healing Art, the council holds artistic sessions for students to heal themselves. For instance, they give a card to students and offer an opportunity to write a letter to any people that students desire. Also, the council gives a small paper which is shaped like a hand to students where they write their dreams or wishes on the paper. The council gives out fortune cookies to students as well. Furthermore, they open speeches of seniors who already graduated from college on subjects such as “Work and Love.”
The General Girl Student Council of Gachon University humbly said that they have a long way to become an organization that is sincerely helpful to students. They added, “The example could be making not just lady’s lounge but men’s lounge as well.”
University of Seoul, Sogang University, Seoul National University, Hankuk University of Foreign Students, and Sungkyunkwan University have no General Girl Student Council in their universities. Yonsei University’s General Girl Student Council’s place is being threatened by their own Student Council and students. Considering the number of General Girl Student Councils in South Korea, it seems like they do not have any rational reason for the existence and students are gradually losing interest in them. Donggukians say that Dongguk’s General Girl Student Council is also in danger because their business process is not well-known to the students.
However, there are universities on top of Gachon, such as Korea National Open University, and Kyung Hee University, etc. that are still pursuing their existence. They are operating lots of businesses such as offering lectures and programs that students can participate in.
Dongguk’s General Girl Student Council can also prepare similar businesses and make a steady progress. Hyun Rhim, a sophomore majoring in Mass Communication and Journalism said that she hopes Donggukians and Choi Eun-mi, the newly elected President of General Girl Student Council, “can get along well” and added, “because Choi Eun-mi always has been showing us her passion and responsibility through many activities in the past months, I believe that she can do well.”
Just like Gachon University’s, Dongguk’s General Girl Student Council can be more than just an ordinary organzation. As Donggukians are putting high hopes on the 2014’s General Girl Student Council, next year is expected to be filled with more vibrant and meaningful activities that can satisfy not only female students, but male students as well.
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