▲ Students from various universities are marching down the streen near Hongik University Station with their school flags and signs saying "President Park should resign."
/Photograph by Lim Ji-soo
Recently, in Korea, it was discovered that a shadow power has been monopolizing the government administration and it drew attention not only in our nation but all around the world. This caused many people’s resentment and led to various forms of movements calling for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. Especially, on November 12th, about a million people joined a public demonstration. University students are also actively expressing their thoughts in groups such as the General Student Council (GSC) of each university and various kinds of alliances. As a result, this movement contributed to President Park’s impeachment, on December 9th.
"Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil Gate," cause of the movements
It was revealed that the shadow power, Choi soon-sil, has been deeply involved in the current politics. Beginning with the corruption of her daughter’s illegal admission to Ewha Womans University, many hidden facts such as the leakage of official documents and illegally collecting contributions to pro-government foundations have been exposed to the public. As a consequence, people have lost trust in the government and began to take action against the current administration.
Public protests and demonstrations began
Flying into a rage, people from all walks of life such as students, professors, laborers, and Koreans living abroad have engaged in protests. For example, on November 8th, temporary employees held a declaration of the state of affairs to demand President Park’s resignation. They criticized the regressive revision of the labor law and asked to abolish temporary jobs. Then, such movements came together to make a vast public demonstration. As a result, on Saturdays, many people have gathered in Gwanghwamun Plaza.
Moreover, people tried to express their opinions not only through demonstrations but also by holding cultural festivals. During public stand ups, some artists have performed their songs. For instance, Lee Seung-hwan, Cho PD, and others joined the third public stand up, and Jeon In-kwon joined the fourth one.
Unions of university students are becoming more powerful
Many university students also tried to express their own opinions and the most common form was presenting a declaration regarding the states of affairs. From October 26th, 145 universities have recited their own unique proclamation. Students of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies wrote the declaration paper in nine different languages and Korea Nazarene University students presented it using sign language for hearing-disabled people. Dongguk University, on October 28th, also recited a declaration including points we should avoid while taking actions: a blind criticism of women and shamanism.
With the continuous movements of each university, efforts to unite universities began to take place on a regional and national scale. An Dre, the chairperson of the GSC of Dongguk University, said, “Discussions to make an assembly of nationwide university students began from the joint action pressing the Ministry of Education for responsibility of higher education problems. Now it includes 67 university GSCs and 38 student organizations.”
In terms of regional scale, a simultaneous bundled rally of state of affairs took place at four bases (Seoul, Daejeon, Busan, and Gwangju), and universities located in capital area participated in the event at Marronnier Park. In addition, the rally has been held in terms of nationwide scale every Saturday, starting from a proclamation ceremony on November 2nd.
At an open rostrum on November 19th, Lee Ji-won (Senior, Department of Indian Studies) from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies commented, “Park Geun-hye administration has made students victims of university reorganization, facilitating competition of qualification, and others while conferring benefits to her acquaintance in entering Ewha Womans University. In this reason, I argue that President Park should resign from her current status.”
Cultural festivals were held by university students
In movements of university students protesting against the Park administration, they held cultural festivals in their schools that expressed their will artistically, peacefully, but powerfully.
Dongguk University students were one of them. On November 3rd, which was students’ day, they marched to Paljungdo, holding the five-color balloons printed with a phrase “Park Geun-hye’s resignation,” which they received in front of six buildings in the campus.
Arriving at Paljungdo, students made several quotes that criticized “Park Geun-hye and Choi Soon-sil Gate.” Then, they walked around Paljungdo and threw five-color balloons into the sky. Shin Seung-min (Junior, College of Law), who participated in the festival, said, “As a person who study law just like the investigating officers, I ask them to investigate the current situation without sanctuary.”
On the same day, in Chung-Ang University, students from the College of Art conducted a ritual praising for the dead democratic spirit. In addition, students who belong to the Department of Vocal Music changed the lyrics of the song “Do you hear the people sing” from the musical Les Miserables and sang it with other students who participated in the festival.
It was not just the two universities mentioned above that held cultural festivals. Only in Seoul, in a means to celebrate students’ day and show their will against Park administration, nine universities held candlelight vigils and cultural festivals in various forms including Yonsei University, Korea University, Hanyang University, and others.
Yoo Ji-hoon, the representative of “2030 Hada,” a political union of young people, which is currently participating in the promotion committee of youth rally, said, “The university students are especially outraging on the point that Jung Yu-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, received a special favor in university entrance examination.” He added, “Furthermore, in their act of showing outrage, they are adding various cultural elements and really turning it into one specific culture.”
Students from various universities are doing speeches at on open mic session on the street neer a Hongik University Station.
/Photopgraph by Lim Ji-soo
University students’ participation in national civil activities
The actions of university students were not restricted to their schools. They actively participated in civil activities such as marching parades and candlelight vigils held in Gwanghwamun Plaza in individuals and groups.
On November 19th, many student organizations gathered around in front of Hongik University Station to march to Gwanghwamun Plaza in order to join the fourth candlelight vigil. At an open mic session, Song Jo-eun, a member of Students Group of Workers’ Solidarity, said, “I participated in order to maximize the power to realize the resignation of Park administration. I decided to show my rage through turning it into an action. Our group constituted general meetings discussing about what university students can do.” Also, Park Se-yeon, who is the chairperson of the student committee of Team Justice at Ewha Womans University, said that she was able to find a great significance in the fact that university students are coming forward to make a change in the society.
Following the parade, the spectacle of university students shouting slogans that criticized Park administration was everywhere in the candlelight vigil at Gwanghwamun Plaza. “Having political rights and the right to vote from this year, it made me feel more responsible to participate in this youth movement,” said Jang Hye-ji (Freshman, Architecture Major) from Dongguk University. Another participant Kim So-ra (Sophomore, Department of Communication & Media) from Sookmyung Women’s University, who is now playing her role in the Green Party, explained that it was difficult to make political statements at school until recently. Yet, she was glad to see how the environment has changed and students making active movements autonomously in a large scale. She further noted that the role of university students is not only to study hard but to consider what they should do in the society.
More interest in politics, more potential for change
University students’ participation in calling for the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye showed several positive characteristics. Not to mention, it was done in a peaceful manner. Also, they made declarations, held cultural festivals, and kept public order. Experts say that this suggests a positive image of future Korean society.
Signing a joint declaration for state of affairs was first done in four universities on October 26th. However, now the number has increased to 145. Furthermore, 15,000 university students gathered under one flag in Gwanghwamun Plaza on November 12th. Such number is said to be the biggest ever since the demonstrations for half-priced tuition fee in 2011.
This shows an increase in university students’ interest in politics and society. An Dre, the co-representative of National University Students’ Discussion for State of Affairs as well as the chairperson of the GSC of Dongguk University, explained how university students congregated from different places to speak out for President Park’s resignation indicated one important fact: they can give positive influences in solving other social problems such as corruption in private and national schools. Jeong Ji-in (Freshman, Department of Integrated Technology) from Yonsei University, a participant in the fourth candlelight vigil, mentioned, “I believe that this great number of university students were able to come together because we realized that one of the fundamental reasons to this corrupted situation is people’s indifference to politics. We need to pay more attention to politics and have responsibility as university students.”
The rally goes on, and the fact that university students have cooperated and gathered strength together implies a great significance. An Dre said, “The exposure of the shadow power triggered the movement of university students. Nevertheless, deep inside, there is our anger, being suppressed by Park administration over the last four years under extreme unemployment crisis and labor market that emphasized never-ending competition.” He explained that there is no future if university students do not become furious and take the lead. Kim Jung-min (35) who is a member of The Youth Party clarified that active movement of university students is indispensable as they give crucial messages to the older generation. He said that there is a bright luminosity in the heart of university students which is what the society needs to accept a change essential to bring a change to the society.
Lim Ji-soo, Kim Min-ji2 firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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