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Thursday,June 17,2021
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In Defense of Academic Freedom


  During Prof. Kang Jeong-gu's lecture, a crowd of reporters took pictures while several aggressive middle-aged men shouted that Prof. Kang should be removed. DU students felt great fear on their own campus. 
   After Prof. Kang contributed his opinion regarding the Korean War to the Daily Surprise on July 27, it created a lot of controversy nationwide because he insisted that the Korean War was a war for Korea's unification. Our campus, was divided between those supporting Prof. Kang's "academic freedom," and those against him because of his pro-North Korea position. In democratic country, is it reasonable to remove a scholar because you don't agree with his scholarship?  What is the role of Academic Freedom in Korea, and how does it regulate our society? 

One scholar's comments can have a big impact on society and the University.  
  There are pro-and anti-Kang students.  The anti Knag students want him dismissed and demonstrated in front of the Buddha statue and Hyehwamun.  The pro-Kang students insist that DU has to protect academic freedom.  The College of Social Science strongly supports prof Kang.  On Oct. 27, they held a meeting in support of Prof. Kang and academic freedom. Moreover, they lead the campaign to obtain signatures to protect the academic freedom.
  Prof. Kim Sang-kyum, the Dept. of Law said that Kang's article was a distortion of historical fact and he should be ashamed because he gives wrong information to his students.  Many people think Kang's position denies the legitimacy of our country and believe he is a "pinko" (pro-communist).  In line with this, he is suspected of violating the National Security Law.  He not only tarnished DU's image, but all Donggukians are  being called pinko. 
  On Oct. 4, Kim Sang-ryeol, vice-president of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said this matter will have a negative influence on DU students' employment.  "I was asked if I took Prof. Kang's class and what's my opinion on this matter," said a senior student who took a job interview and failed.
  The School Authority is considerably worried about  the school's image because it could greatly influence the application rate of  2006 freshmen.

 Shouldn't this be a real problem?
  The Republic of Korea guarantees Academic Freedom as stated clearly in Article 22 of the Constitution.  Therefore a scholar has the right to study without limit and is absolutely free to express his ideas.  "The second part of Article 37 states clearly that one's liberty can be regulated to a minimum.  Should Prof. Kang's remarks end his academic career?  I don't think so.  It was just his scholastic opinion," said Kim Do-hyun, a Dept. of Law professor.  "We can't say that he has to be punished based solely on just his ideology.  Also, if it wasn't direct instigation, it belongs to the field of freedom.  Freedom of conscience has to be guarantee absolutely, and this includes ideology," he added.
  According to the Dongguk Post survey of November 21,  68% of students responded that the school has to protect professors' academic freedom although 59% didn't agree with Prof. Kang's opinion.  Lets take the last empress of Korea as an example.  Although she was described as great woman who worked for the nation, some scholars say she was a truckler.  Interpretation of history can vary.  That is why constitutional law must protect a scholar's academic freedom.  

  Conclusion
  We like to a say that Korea is a rational nation, but when it comes to the conflict between the North and the South we can't speak our thoughts freely.
  As stated in Article 22 of Constitutional Law, all scholars have the right to academic freedom.  Whether you agree or disagree with a scholar's opinion, we have to respect all professor's academic views.  It is not just about Prof. Kang Jeong-gu, it's about all scholars studying in Korea.  If DU can't take the responsibility of protecting professors' academic freedom, then who will?  If the University won't protect this very basic right, no one will. 

Lee Seon-a  faciras@dge.edu

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