Last April 4, the school’s Center for Gender Affairs announced the disciplinary measure for the professor of Art & Design who was accused of sexual harassment against Ewha students. Along with the #MeToo Movement, the importance of Center for Gender Affairs in universities is being emphasized more than ever.
“I am aware of our school’s Center for Gender Affairs,” said Na Sujin, a Sophomore in the Department of English Education. “I know they are responsible for counseling sexual harassment related issues and supporting such problems. I therefore acknowledge their importance too.” Initially, such centers were established in the early 2000s to protect students' rights in the event of sexual harassment cases within campus. At Yonsei University, the Center for Gender Equality was founded in 2000 and at Korea University, the Center for Gender Equity, in 2001. Korea University added KU Human Rights Center in 2016 to deal with more complicated cases or infringement of human rights, while Yonsei University too reorganized to Yonsei Gender Equity Center last year.
Both schools’ centers work to prevent and solve ongoing and potential problems among students regarding sexual rights, its methods range from counseling and educating to fight for sexual rights on and off campus. For example, at Korea University, it has been mandatory for freshmen to receive offline Human Rights and Gender Equality education since 2017 as part of the school’s curriculum. Students must also take online education in the years that follow.
Nonetheless, centers in universities still face some limits as they often lack sufficient staff who offer consultation and support at the same time to victims.
Ewha’s Center for Gender Affairs has been recently criticized among some students who assert that the current name does not reflect gender equity sufficiently, and that the center’s slow work pace.
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“ A c t u a l l y, I ’ v e a l r e a d y uploaded some posts on several online communities about the problematic terminology for our school’s center’s name,” Na said. “The current name naturally deletes existence of students who are queers and nonbinary on campus. It is not only the biological sex and social gender that differentiate people. I sincerely hope they alter the name and avoid any secondary damage in future activities.”
“I was a little disappointed with the school’s slow reaction in the recent scandal,” said another anonymous student. “I hope for more forceful management and feedback from now on.”
In the case of Yonsei and Korea University, both have only two professional counselors for sexual violence, apart from the chief manager and assistants that comprise the centers. “Many students have been coming to the center since it was founded in 2001. Every consultation and affair we deal here is challenging as they differ in all manner of ways with diverse students visiting for help,” said Hong Yu-jin, a counselor at Center for Gender Equality in Korea University. “Nevertheless, our center bases on a principle that prioritizes the safety of the victim and protection of their sexual selfdetermination in order to make a safe and secure gender equal campus culture.”
Seoul National University's Human Rights Center (HRC) aims to make a community in which all members have mutual care and respect for each other. First started as the Center for Sexual Assault Prevention in 2000, HRC was established in 2012 with the Sexual Harassment and Violence Counselling Line and the Human Rights Counselling Line.
C u r r e n t l y, H R C has n i n e members including the director and four professional counselors in Counselling Department. Also, HRC’s Steering Committee consists of 15 people including six ex-officio members, four appointed members of professors at SNU, two staff and student members each and one member from outside school. Once a year, entire student body, professors and faculties are required to complete an online course named “Sexual harassment and sexual violence prevention education,” provided by HRC. Also, HRC designates “Human Rights and Gender Equality education day” once in a month and hold lectures. Last month, HRC held “Human Rights Research Projects Contest” to enhance the human rights consciousness of undergraduate students and to spread a human rights-friendly culture.
E s p e c i a l l y w i t h t h e #MeToo Movement spreading kaleidoscopically in Korean society, Center for Gender Equity and Equality’s roles in universities are expected to be highlighted greatly.
“Because we have always done our job under the same principle and rule in objective to reach a healthy and safe campus life that promises a gender equal culture, security from prevention of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, I don’t think the status-quo of work process will change due to the spread of the #MeToo Movement,” Hong said. “However, I do hope that as the movement spreads further in our society, the seriousness of sexism and sexual abuse will be acknowledged among the Korean community.”