Former president Choi Kyung-hee stepped down on Oct. 21. Following 86 days of students’ sit-in protest in the Main Hall, Choi’s resignation was made amid growing allegations that the university granted unfair favors in admissions and grading to a student in Kinesiology & Sports Studies, Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil.
Since late July, students and faculty members had demanded her resignation in responsibility for her unilateral decisions such as the establishment plan of LiFE (Light up Your Future in Ewha) College, as well as the intervention of 1,600 police officers supposedly to relieve faculty members of their confinement. The conflict was intensified by the scandal of the school granting special treatment to Chung. During a discussion meeting held between Choi and students on Oct. 17, Choi clearly stated she had no intention of resigning. However, two days after the meeting, Choi abruptly announced her intention to resign describing her decision as an act to “continue the Ewha spirit of harmony and trust.” The announcement was made only few hours ahead of a scheduled demonstration by faculty members.
However, there are still a number of loose ends. Students feel that Choi has not made an appropriate apology for the police intervention. There is also discontent about Choi’s lack of substantial action to protect students who underwent police investigation for leading the “confinement” of faculty members. Although Choi initially submitted a petition stating that she did “not want any legal charges pressed on the students,” the petition had no lasting influence as the students have been handed over to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office. Choi has also denied all allegations regarding Chung.
For such unresolved problems, students and professors are voicing out their concerns through further demonstrations. On Nov. 3, the fourth and final mass demonstration took place in the presence of approximately 4,000 students and faculty members according to a statistic provided by students. The participants demanded that a thorough investigation of the suspicions involving Chung take place and that the current presidential election system be reformed.
Questions on future presidential election yet to be answered
“The current election system allows the school foundation to have far too much influence on selecting candidates,” stated Lim Dong-hoon, the professor of the Department of Korean Language & Literature during the demonstration on Nov. 3. “The faculty is considering the possibility of adopting a direct voting system. We are also going to hold a hearing on Nov. 11 to discuss a new direction for the presidential election is under way.”
The most recent election system was carried out by an indirect vote where the Board of Directors, comprised of eight members including the head director and the honorary president, chose between two candidates selected by professors. However, in the face of the unprecedented situation of the former president’s resignation, professors and students are raising their voice for a new, more democratic method of electing the president.
“Electing a new president should not be a mere act of filling an empty post, but a way to bring about a satisfactory and final end to the entire situation regarding Choi,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous. “I hope the election process be carried out in a considerate and democratic manner, even if it means the process becomes time-consuming.”
In the absence of a president, the presidential duties have temporarily been placed on the shoulders of Song Tuck-soo, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. According to the head director of the Board of Directors, the new president is planned to be elected before the new semester begins. The term of the new president will be 4 years.