On March 10, Kim Ye-seul (25), a junior from Korea University, dropped out of school. She made a declaration and posted a hand-written poster on the school wall. As soon as the declaration was posted on the Internet, it became a sensation among university students, viewed as approximately 3.3 million people. After Kim posted the declaration, it seemed to have made quite an impact on students’ minds, resulting in two more declarations made by students from Ewha and
Kim begins with, “Today, I quit university.” She explains the stress of walking on a tightrope between shining as the “G generation,” or to help others shine as “880,000 Korean won generation.” She also writes of her anxiety and frustration as a student in her twenties. She describes universities as “certificate brokers”, producing machine components called global capital and conglomerates.
I first heard about this declaration during a lecture. When I looked around and saw how students reacted, the horror and shock in their eyes the atrocity of the act, but few students showed envious eyes.
Korea is unusual in that almost 70 to 80 percent of high school students enter university. We are taught from the moment we enter elementary school that we are meant to study until we enter a prestigious college and that not going to college equals failure. Even celebrities and national athletes with busy schedules attend university. Graduating from a university has nearly become a social norm and most graduates follow certain obvious paths.
Of course, going to a university is not inherently a bad thing. However, altogether taking away the opportunity for young people to think about the importance of college is wrong. For Kim, the pressure she felt was probably due to an undesirable future that she was walking towards. As is the case with many university students, she did not have the chance to think about what she wanted in life before entering Korea University. At last, she finally realized staying in university was not the right choice for her.
About a month had passed since the declaration was made and I’m sure some of us have thought through what it means to be in college. The problem is not the fact that we are in college and learn the same thing as everybody else. The most important thing is to be able to figure out what we want and how to achieve that. University is just one of the tools.
I mean, look at Bill Gates and Steven Jobs; they are not college graduates but still better than fine.