Aroused by a sharp whiff of the chilly morning breeze Kang Jung-joo, the President of the Student Government Association (SGA), slowly and rather painfully opens one eye to the colorful draping of the tent instead of the usual white wash ceiling of her bedroom. The view of the main gate of
It is 7 a.m., and Kang needs to get up, wash her hair and prep for a student council meeting that will start in 30 minutes. After several days of nothing but salt and bottled water, she feels groggy and unusually heavy. The mornings are always the hardest part. Kang pushes herself out of the covers, rummages around for her glasses and braces herself. It is yet another day of the bold hunger strike which will only end when President Lee Bae-yong agrees to meet with her, and today Kang is determined to prevail.
Kang starts the meeting by briefly evaluating the works of the previous day. Kang feels queasy but she knows she must pull herself together and take care of the matters at hand. It is not only the hunger strike itself but the unplanned details of the upcoming annual student festival, the Daedong Festival, that await her attention.
At 9a.m., after a rather long but successful meeting Kang stations herself in front of the tent, microphone in hand, to address the Ewha students who step through the main gate. Some accompany her to hand out flyers that urge Ewha students to partake in the protest against the school. Kang knows her cries and passionate speeches have long become routine for Ewha students but today, especially when she is worn out, the faces of those who refuse to take a flyer feel colder than ever. Her speech may have become slower over the past few days but her manner remains consistent. After a few minutes Kang hands the microphone to the vice president and sits down to draw breath and take a short rest.
At 10:30 a.m. Kang’s voice breaks out in front of Welch-Ryang Auditorium, where Ewha students flock after the chapel service. Minutes later, Kang is in front of the Student Union Building with an amplifier at her side. At 10:45 a.m. she visits classrooms to talk to students between lectures. Another chapel session starts at 11:30 a.m., and yet again Kang is already there with her microphone. Only after a 30 minute break, when chapel ends, will she be able to continue her urgent message.
It is 1:30 p.m. and Kang is on the cold floor of the SGA office on her knees, pouring over large, white sheets that gradually fill up with her bold handwriting that encourage students to participate in the upcoming candlelight vigil. Her head feels much lighter now that the morning has passed and she is busy with her work. The office is a mess with papers strewn over the floor, and the office smells of somebody’s late lunch but she does not mind. Only when a reporter from The Ewha Weekly comes for an interview does she look up from her work. Close up, Kang’s lips have turned a nasty purple and are badly chapped. Some strands of hair have come undone but she does not loose her unique friendly tone.
After a successful interview, Kang stands patiently as a SGA member pins a sign on the front and back of her clothes, indicating the number of days that have past since the initiation of the indefinite hunger strike. Kang finds room to joke with her peers, carefully look over the newly printed posters and take a sip of water before marching determinedly to the Humanities Building A. There have been some professors that refused to let her speak before their lectures, but so far the speeches have been successful. Kang feels particularly grand when Ewha students listen intently–even when it is mostly the same speech everyday–and clap heartily at the end of her speech.
Kang’s short speeches end at 3:30 p.m., but the daily assembly in front of the school begins in 30 minutes time. At 5 p.m she attends a seminar of a student organization and at 5:30 p.m. she meets with student representatives for the Daedong Festival preparations.
Only when the sky turns black is she back in the tent, gazing up at the same ceiling that greeted her many hours ago. The day had been hectic, but instead of the warm feeling of satisfaction, Kang finds herself focusing on unfinished tasks. As she goes over her day Kang remembers many things; how she chuckled at a note written by a freshman, telling her to grab a bite or two when nobody is watching, and the unfelt smile of an Office of Student Affairs faculty as he ignored the sign blaring “Hunger Strike” pinned to her clothes and rushed to eat his own lunch. Tomorrow, Kang will squint up at the same ceiling, grab the microphone and the water bottle as firmly as she did today, and battle on as cheerfully for Ewha.