|On April 1, members of the National University Student Government Network gathered at Gwanghwamun. The representatives voiced out on student demands as a political agenda for the presidential candidates to attend. Photo by Choi Kyu-min.
Former President Park Geun-hye was impeached by the Constitutional Court on March 10. She was taken into custody on March 31 due to suspected bribery of 44.3 billion won accepted from Samsung, coercively collecting money from corporations to establish Mir and K-sports Foundation, intentionally leaking classified information, and more. Subsequent to her disastrous leadership,the nation is now fast shifting focus to Korea’s 19th presidential election which takes place on May 9.
Meanwhile, on March 13, Student Government Associations (SGAs) formed the National University Student Government Network to pressure presidential candidates’ to attend to youth problems as crucial political agendas. Although the original members of the network were the SGAs of Ewha, Hanyang and Korea University, over 30 universities’ student organizations now form the network.
On April 1, the members of the network came to Gwanghwamun to deliver the youth demands gathered from a survey participated in by 5,100 university students. The questions in the survey consisted of five categories: university tuition, education, youth workforce, living expense, and social pending issues.
“According to the survey, 92 percent have answered that they will vote in the coming election,” said Woo Ji-su, the president of Starting Ewha. “Among the 8 percent who answered negatively, four represented freshmen who weren’t old enough to vote yet.”
The presidents of seven SGAs read a declaration, consisted of seven main demands narrowed down from the survey, to urge the future president to resolve issues that have long been appealed for by students: first, lower the cost of tuition rather than expanding state scholarships; second, raise the ethics standards of academic affairs and reflect student opinions in electing university presidents; third, improve the ethic standards of universities’ governing boards; fourth, guarantee financial stability in universities and cease school restructuring; fifth, help decrease students’ living expenses and raise the minimum wage; sixth, resolve youth unemployment via chaebol reformation; and seventh, probe the truth behind the Sewol ferry tragedy.
“We shall make sure that being elected president will be impossible without listening to students’ voices,” read the declaration. “The 19th presidential election is not merely about choosing a better candidate. With 92 percent of the nation’s youth voting-age population signaling their willingness to vote this May, the declaration of NUSGV shows the desire for a nation-wide college reform.
The representatives of different SGAs also addressed various issues in their own schools. Lim Soo-bin, the vice president of Seoul National University criticized their faculty’s violent suppression that ended students’ 185-day sit-in against the undemocratic plan to build its second campus in Siheung.
“Spring has reached the Gwanghwamun plaza, but it is yet to come to universities,” Lim said.
Lee Hee-jun, the president of Dongduk Women’s University SGA, pointed out the flaws of placing freshmen in departments with their majors undetermined. Lee found the core cause of the problem in fierce competition that drives schools to depend on financial support earned from government-supported programs.
“My university admitted that it is turning into an employment training school,” Lee said. “As a protest against the status quo, students are planning to refuse attending classes in April.”
The network plans to send out the collected demands of university students to presidential nominees and receive each of their answers. They further hope to organize a town hall meeting with presidential nominees and university students.