For more than a month, the newsstand of Sungkyunkwan University Weekly on the campus of Sungkyunkwan University has been left empty. While the conflict between its reporters and the advising professor has lingered unresolved, an alternative newspaper, High Quality Zzirasi, has emerged, declaring independence from the school on March 28.
The conflict between the Sungkyungkwan Weekly and its advising professor has continued for a long time, resulting in its reporters going on an indefinite strike.
In publishing this year’s first issue, the reporters of the Weekly had disagreements with their advising professor. They believed that reporting on a part-time lecturer who was said to have been beaten by some of the school’s faculty during his one-man protest on campus was appropriate. However, the advising professor maintained that the beating claim was untrue and thus disapproved of reporting it as a news. Unable to reach an agreement, the advising professor finally suspended the publication of the Weekly.
Recognizing the link between the interference by the school in the student press and the press dependence on the school, 11 students organized an independent newspaper that is financially and systemically free from the school: High Quality Zzirasi–the term zzirasi being Korean slang for a flyer.
“With the school’s interference, the conventional student newspaper could only deliver filtered and censored news about the school,” said a reporter of the Zzirasi who wishes to remain anonymous, as its news is primarily reported anonymously. “Those who believe in students’ right to know about school-related issues attempted to report on what the Weekly could never report again.”
The Zzirasi is an independent student newspaper printing about 1,000 copies every two weeks. It has published four issues, and the cost has been covered out of the reporters’ own pockets.
Reporters of the Zzirasi use nicknames instead of real names to maintain anonymity, thereby preventing any misunderstandings of representing other groups to which they belong, and also to avoid possible pressure from the school.
Zzirasi also tries to become a “friendly” press, which readers can commune closely with.
“We are aiming for a two-way communication with readers through Social Network Services such as Facebook and KakaoTalk, a smart-phone messenger,” the reporter of Zzirasi said. “We hope Zzirasi can serve the role as a new, hybrid press for students, so that they become conscious and aware of the issues occurring in school.”
The problem that Zzirasi has revealed prevails in student newspapers of other universities as well. In 2011, the Konkuk University Press of Konkuk University and the Oe Dae Hagbo of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies had to cease publication for a while due to disagreement on whether to report issues such as the general assembly held to discuss tuition which might damage the school’s reputation.
For an independent press such as High Quality Zzirasi, student newspapers of other universities are raising supportive voices.
“After a month-long suspension, our student editor was fired, which illustrates how a student press’ editorial right is being suppressed by schools,” said Kim Yong-sik, an assisting editor of Konkuk University Press. “Thus a press free from school interference, such as the High Quality Zzirasi, is much needed, for it can promote student press freedom, leading to a guarantee of students’ rights to know.”