On Oct. 7, at 8 p.m. in front of the Ewha Campus Complex (ECC), hundreds of students and graduates gathered around to demand the resignation or dismissal of President Choi Kyung-hee despite the heavy rain. Marking themselves in the dark by putting on glow stick bracelets, students held up slogans such as “We dream of a Ewha that is fair to everyone” and marched around the building.
Participants then sat down at the ECC staircase and some students were given the time to speak about their thoughts on the current situation. In addition to their call for the president’s resignation or dismissal, students expressed their grievances toward a recent scandal over a possible admission irregularity that has recently been publicized nationwide.
While there has been doubts on illicit admission, the issue became serious on Sept. 28, after the inspection of the administration conducted by the opposition lawmakers from the Education, Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee. They questioned whether President Choi has given illegal favors to Jung Yu-ra in Kinesiology & Sports Studies. She is daughter of Choi Soon-sil who is known to be from a politically powerful family.
The lawmakers from opposition party raised three suspicions regarding the favors. Jung was accepted into the school illicitly, and was also able to gain credits despite not attending any classes. Her advisor had been changed after her mother personally visited the school. With these suspicions, Education, Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee held an on-site meeting with President Choi at Case Hall on the same day.
According to the school, these accusations are all false. The school mentioned that the extension of special athelete admission for Kinesiology & Sports Studies from 11 to 23 sports had been discussed in May 2013, and notified through 2014 application handbook prior to the implementation. Therefore, the special admission was not created specifically for Jung.
The school also explained that the reason why Jung was able to gain credits despite not attending any classes was because she turned in sufficient paperworks. Under the revised school regulations from this June, students can be excused from attendance if they provide documents that can prove their participation in international competitions or trainings. When they miss exams because of these reasons, professors may allow them to take additional exams. Thus, Jung was able to gain credits despite not attending classes.
The school claimed that such regulation was revised not for an individual, Jung, but for all students. With the newly established Challenge Semester in 2015, class operation and evaluation processes were diversified, so revisions were made to meet the diversified education environment.
About the issue related to the replacement of Jung’s academic advisor, the school explained that it was changed upon the request from her advisor. Jung’s advisor was newly selected in the meeting where the faculty of the Kinesiology & Sports Studies attended.
Besides, the school posted their explanations on the school Web site, these seemed not enough to settle the controversies, as students’ complaints were storming, which led to the protest on Oct. 7.
“I am in utter disbelief at this whole situation,” said a student who participated in the protest. “It is such a disgrace for my school to be associated with illicit admission and favors. President Choi should take responsibility and resign.”
With the arising suspicion on illegal favors, the conflict between President Choi and students seems yet to be resolved.
Shouting Ewha takes further stance against President Choi
Shouting Ewha, Ewha’s 48th Student Government Association (SGA), has organized further actions to pressure President Choi Kyung-hee to resign. Those actions include the third protest march held on Sept. 27 and the Amhaeng-eosa Project that began on Oct. 4 and continued until 12 in coalition with the steering committee of the College of Education, the SGA of the College of Natural Sciences, and Begin Again, the school’s club association.
Held as part of the General Assembly’s second agenda including the President’s resignation, democratization of the school’s decision system, and prohibition of pressing legal charges against students, the third protest march was completed in the presence of approximately 300 people on Sept. 27.
The march began at the stairs of ECC. During the march, performances including singing of the song “Running Across the Sky” by Lee Juck and chanting slogans in front of the Main Hall were carried out. The slogans were “President should take responsibility and resign,” “Democratize the school’s decision system,” “School should protect students,” and “Students are the owners of the school.”
“We had to complete the march in the rain with umbrellas over our heads,” said a freshman who participated in the march. “However, no one was irritated. We were chanting as one with cheerful energy until the end.”
Another action Shouting Ewha undertook was the Amhaeng-eosa Project. “Amhaeng-eosa” is a undercover agent that was dispatched by the king during the Joseon dynasty to inspect and punish corrupt provincial officials. By naming the project after the secret inspector, the SGA showed its determination to bring about the resignation of the President.
Shouting Ewha first collected signatures of students supporting the project from Oct. 4 to 11. The final number of signatures was approximately 5,600, surpassing the initial goal of 3,000 by far. “Appearance of Amhaeng-eosa Performance” was also held in front of the Main Gate on Oct. 10, during which members of Shouting Ewha appeared dressed in traditional robes and hat worn during the Joseon dynasty.
A press conference was also held on Oct 12, during which Shouting Ewha initially planned to hand over the collected signatures to the President and the school directors in person, pressuring them to comply with students’ wishes. However, in reply to Shouting Ewha’s request for such a conference, the school revealed that it is not possible for the President and the school directors to come and receive the signatures.
“As more than 5,600 students participatedt, I hope the school realizes the seriousness of the situation and provide an adequate response,” said a representative of the student Amhaeng-eosas.
Meanwhile, some professors are showing supportive reactions towards students’ stance related to need of more communication.
“The lack of sufficient communication between students and the school has led to this situation,” said professor Kim Hye-sook of Philosophy and the Scranton Honors Program. “I believe that all members of Ewha should establish a more substantial communication system, and also bring fundamental changes to Ewha’s bureaucratic culture.”
Shouting Ewha continues to voice its dissent against President Choi in support of students and professors. Whether and when the school will realize its agendas is yet to be seen.