At the beginning of every semester, there are reports of sexual harassment incidents on and off university campuses. Even one-day orientation for freshmen, membership trainings (MTs) and school festivals are not always safe occasions for students. Like-minded students have come together to establish “Penguin Project,” which aims to awaken students to the seriousness of on-campus sexual harassments, an issue too easily underestimated in the Korean society.
The idea for Penguin Project was first conceived while planning the programs for “2017 US” camp held on Feb. 25 and 26. Sexual harassment was chosen as a main topic among various subjects, since many organizations participating in the planning for the camp agreed on the need to change the general on-campus atmosphere, which is too tolerant toward sexual harassment.
Penguin Project was inspired by the work of French illustrator and author, Thomas Mathieu. His work, “The Crocodiles” depicts 50 episodes of sexual harassment in a straightforward manner. The book aims to help both men and women recognize the problem in a new perspective and to discuss the matter openly. Also the book provides detailed information on how to deal with each episode.
In a similar way, Penguin Project made leaflets and other promotional goods to raise awareness of types of sexual harassment that could easily happen on and off campuses by providing specific examples.
“We chose a penguin as a mascot for various symbolic reasons,” said Kim Young-gil, the coordinator of Penguin Project. “In ‘The Crocodiles,’ the male assaulters are illustrated as crocodiles. But we tried to express courage and solidarity through penguins, because they share childcare and show acts of harmonious group life such as ‘first penguin’ and ‘huddling.’”
“First penguin” refers to the role of the first penguin in the herd to dive into the ocean for the safety of others. Named after such practice, “First Penguin Campaign” aims to help people discuss the on-campus sexual harrassment issue more openly in an atmosphere where it is not talked about enough, just as the first penguin makes the pioneering move in the herd.
“Huddling” is also an action done by penguins in order to keep themselves warm in the harsh cold by staying in a tightly packed group. In the same way, speaking out about sexual harassment issues becomes much easier if it is done together.
Currently, clubs and academic societies from many universities such as Sogang University, Sungkyunkwan University and Hanyang University and students from “Saramdeul for People’s Right” are participating in the project.
As the new semester begins, Penguin Project has started a new project on campus by distributing leaflet regarding the First Penguin and Huddling Campaign in order to raise awareness of sexual harassment problems and discuss possible solutions.
“On March 30, we are planning a group action for changing the current campus atmosphere toward sexual harassment,” Kim said. “Also we are planning to participate in a feminism festival on March 4 to introduce the Penguin Project.”
Penguin Project is recruiting supporters through Facebook and also posted advertisement posters on several university campuses.
“Until now, there weren’t many projects or campaigns trying to extend the discussion on campus sexual harassment problem to the society,” Kim said. “So at first we had a hard time in making the focal point. I hope several arrangements would be made in the future such as requiring mandatory gender equality education for student governments or making gender equality education as a required course.”